|Pope Benedict XVI (C) waves as he blessed the crowd as he makes his "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and the world) address from a balcony in St. Peter's Square in Vatican Dec. 25, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Canadian Catholics reacted with shock upon learning Pope Benedict XVI will resign Feb. 28, citing poor health.
Even some of the Vatican's inner circle, who knew the decision was coming, were surprised to wake up Monday to the news.
"Nobody at all was expecting it this morning," Toronto's Thomas Cardinal Collins said at a press conference after Monday mass.
"It was quite a shock."Collins is one of three Canadians who belong to the College of Cardinals, which will decide on a new pope.
He's expected to travel to Rome shortly to take part in the council.
From cathedrals to tiny chapels, Catholics were trying to make sense of the historic announcement and what it might mean for the church going forward. There was a sadness in the air at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral during Monday's noon mass.
"I'm sad but in a way I am happy because he spent his time very well and he was a brilliant man," said parishioner Pat Hearne.
Rev. Richard Smith, Edmonton's Archbishop and the president of the Canadian Conference, called Benedict a remarkable man.
"We are grateful to God for the leadership given to the church by this extraordinary man," Smith said. Smith told reporters he met the Pope in November and saw that he was ailing.
"Clearly his love for the church and his shepherd's heart have led him to take this step, which he believes in his conscience to be necessary for the good of the church" Smith said.
Bishop Marcel Damphousse of the eastern Ontario diocese of Cornwall-Alexandria said he “didn't see it coming.
"It hasn't happened in nearly 600 years.”
Damphousse said the Pope stepped down out of consideration for more than a billion Catholics around the world.
"His decision is really out of love for the church, out of concern for the church," he said. "He knows we need a leader who can give 100%."
Damphousse said he is still saddened to see the end of Pope Benedict's tenure.
"He's the one who appointed me as a bishop," he said. "We have a special bond because of that."He is also a fan of Marc Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec, who, as the No. 3 at the Vatican, is widely seen as a likely successor."I'm sure he'd do a fine job," he said.
Others are not so sure.
Father Raymond Gravel in the diocese of Joliette, Que., hopes the next pontiff comes from Latin America or Africa.
"I think we need a pope who has a deep knowledge of the field ... near the poor, wounded by life," he said. "We need a very human pope."
--with files from Kevin Connor, Catherine Griwkowsky and Cheryl Brink