Catholics in metro Atlanta, including the Archbishop of Atlanta, say they are surprised by Pope Benedict's announcement that he will resign the papacy on Feb. 28.
"Of course Catholics across the world are shocked. He is a man of extraordinary wisdom and deep faith," said Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Gregory told Channel 2's Tom Regan that he has met face-to-face with the pope over the years, including the time prior to becoming pontiff as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.Gregory said he last saw and spoke with Benedict in May 2012. He noticed a change in his appearance.
"He showed his age. He was noticeably tired,"said Gregory.
Benedict is the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. In announcing his decision at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pope cited advanced age.
"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," said Benedict.
Cardinals will meet in March to chose Benedict's successor. There is frenzied speculation on whether the candidate chosen will be from Europe, Africa, Asia or possibly the United States. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is viewed as a potential candidate.
Regan spoke with parishioners, who say they look forward to the historic decision that will name a new spiritual leader of the church after the eight-year papacy of Benedict.
"Since we have never had this in our lifetimes, it's something new for us Catholics to try to figure out and understand for ourselves," said parishioner Bill Clark.