PEORIA - Many area Catholics say they are surprised the pope is stepping down.
The news quickly hit home for Catholics all across the world, including Dan White of Peoria.
He heard the news while getting ready to serve a Sophia's Kitchen, a Catholic soup kitchen in Peoria. He's surprised, but thinks it could be a good thing in the long run.
"You know he had some big shoes to fill and at this point in time right now, the Catholic church as well as the rest of the world is under a lot of pressure and they need a very strong figure head to lead us through troubled times," he said.
A papal resignation has never been seen in our lifetime. Nearly 600 years has passed since a pope last resigned.
Bishop Daniel Jenky, of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, met the pope on several occasions. In a written statement he said "the resignation of Pope Benedict will be a great loss."
"This is huge," said Deacon Bob Sondag. "The world is watching and the world is wondering, but the beauty is there's a bit of hope."
While reflecting on Benedict's legacy, some say he will be remembered for his humility and response during the Catholic sex abuse scandal.
"He cried with the people and for the people that were victimized. And so he's been a great pope and he's a good example of humility and compassion," said resident Donna Nelson.
Benedict's replacement may come for some time. A committee will come together soon to start the process of finding his successor. Many Catholics are hopeful that their next leader is chosen wisely. One person, who would like to remain unnamed, said she would like to the next pope to be energetic and charismatic.
White says he would like someone similar to Benedict's popular predecessor, John Paul II.
Bishop Jenky is asking for Catholics and people around the world to pray for the pope's health and for the future of the church.