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Pope Benedict's retirement met with surprise

The Rev. Bob Jones of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Sugar Grove was surprised that Pope Benedict XVI will retire by the end of the month.

In a statement, Pope Benedict said he no longer has the strength to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Benedict will resign Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years.

“I kind of congratulate him,” Jones said. “He took over one of the toughest jobs in the world at age 78. He ought to be able to retire.”

Benedict will step down two months before his 86th birthday. He served almost eight years after succeeding John Paul II, who died in 2005 at age 84.

“I give him a lot of credit for deciding to resign,” Jones said. “It doesn’t usually happen.”

Jones said the next pope “undoubtedly will be younger.”

“Pope John Paul II was 58 when he was selected,” Jones said.

Above all, Jones believes the next pope needs to be someone who has “compassion for the people of the world and a man who upholds the values of the church.”

Benedict will become the first pontiff to resign since Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to resolve a schism that had divided the church. The previous pope to quit was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for five months.

In a news release, Bishop David Malloy of the Rockford Diocese said Pope Benedict “will leave a lasting imprint for all of us in many ways, but especially for his dedication and fidelity to the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church and his care and concern for the poor as shown in his Encyclicals.”

“Guided by the Holy Father’s kindness and humility, we join together in praying that our Lord continue to bless the Holy Father with strength,” Malloy said. “We pray for our church, our world and all those who will choose his successor.”

• Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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