Pope's resignation saddens Minn. archbishop - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Pope's resignation saddens Minn. archbishop

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -

The archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis says he is surprised and saddened by Pope Benedict's resignation.

Archbishop John Nienstedt said, like Catholics around the world, he was surprised to learn the 85-year-old pope plans to resign for health reasons at the end of the month.

Nienstedt issued a statement Monday saying he is also saddened by the thought of losing Benedict's "strong leadership for the church."

Nienstedt was among bishops who met with Benedict last March. The archbishop said the pope's pastoral reflections about each of the bishops' dioceses -- and the Twin Cities archdiocese in particular -- "were insightful as well as inspirational."

At the daily mass held at the University of St. Thomas on Monday, Father David Smith talked about the pope's decision, adding that he is happy about it. 

"I thought for some time that it was what should happen," he admitted. "As Benedict said, 'Too weak to carry on the work.'"

Several parishioners told FOX 9 News they believe Benedit showed his wisdom with the decision, but many were shocked by the simple fact that he will become the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.

History professor Massimo Faggioli has become a nationally known expert on the pope and Catholicism, and he told FOX 9 News he sees a new opportunity ahead.

"We've never had this kind of situation, when the next conclave -- in a few weeks -- will elect a new pope knowing that the former pope is still alive," he explained. 

While Benedict won't be in the room debating the next Pope, Faggioli said he believes his influence will still be strong.

"I don't expect him to be campaigning for someone or endorsing someone ... but his spirit will be there and that's unprecedented," Faggioli said.

There are about 825,000 Catholics in the Twin Cities who care deeply about who will become the next pope, but Faggioli explained there are worldwide implications when it comes to selecting a new pope because the pontiff historically influences international relations and builds bridges between religious organizations.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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