Published February 11. 2013 11:00AM Updated February 11. 2013 1:03PM
Norwich – The Most Rev. Michael Cote, bishop of Norwich called today's announcement of Pope Benedict's pending resignation "an extraordinary moment."
Cote said the announcement this morning that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign the papacy at the end of February a "very big surprise to me and I believe to all Catholics."
Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he would resign Feb. 28 — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years – citing declining health. In his announcement, the 85-year-old pope emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."
"This is an extraordinary moment," Cote said in a statement this morning. "It is a moment of courage and humility for this pope. He has made a choice he believes will ensure that the demands of the office will continue to be met with the vigor required in these exceptional times.
"We pray for Pope Benedict and for his successor. And we pray for the conclave of Cardinals who will choose our next pope."
Cote said Catholics should have a new pope by Easter, March 31. Cote said the region's Catholics should be "impressed" with Benedict's leadership decision to step aside for the good of the Church.
"We are inspired by his leadership and guidance," Cote said. "We will continue to follow his encouragement to rediscover the faith and the Church, and actively spread the Good News of the Gospel. We thank you Holy Father for all you have done to proclaim the faith, to ensure its vital entry into a new century and for your courage to lead the Church."