Pope's Decision to Step Down Surprises North Texans

The news that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down at the end of the month startled Catholics in North Texas, including the bishop of Dallas.

Bishop Kevin Farrell said he at first thought it was a hoax.

"This was a great surprise to me," he said.

The 85-year-old pope, citing his health, will be the first to leave his post in six centuries. He will leave his position Feb. 28.

Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope requires "both strength of mind and body."

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he said during a routine meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday.

Farrell said he understands the needs of the Church.

"Today, the Holy Father is required to be everything and everywhere at once," Farrell said. "He is required to travel. He has to be here, there and everywhere."

Parishioners outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Fort Worth also said they understood.

Marcus Woodle said he respects the pope and acknowledged that his health wasn't up to par with the needs of the church.

"Strong leadership is a necessity, and I think his humility in recognizing his own shortcomings in that respect and not being able to do all that perhaps needs to be done, is something that needs to be commended for," he said.

Farrell said nothing will change at local churches.

"I would say to the people of Dallas, the church is alive and well in your parish, in your parish communities -- that's where the church is lived out," he said.

The Diocese of Dallas is made up of 1.2 million people across nine counties. The Diocese of Fort Worth has about 760,000 parishioners encompassing its 28 counties.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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