FORT WORTH -- Pope Benedict XVI's resignation surprised Catholics worldwide, including North Texas, where church leaders urged prayer.
Citing age and health issues, Benedict announced he will no longer lead the Roman Catholic Church after Feb. 28. The news came as Catholics prepare for the beginning of Lent.
"I was very surprised," said Art Dickerson, who has attended St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth for 45 years. "I think it is a big surprise because there hasn't been a resignation in 600 years."
Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Dallas Diocese took to Twitter to urge all Catholics in the diocese "to please pray for the Pope today."
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Farrell, who held a news conference in Dallas, said Benedict sees himself as an instrument of God and he probably believes that in today's fast-paced changing world the church needs a leader in good health.
"He found he just couldn't fulfill the mission of being the universal leader of the Catholic Church," Farrell said.
In Fort Worth, Dickerson learned about the resignation via the news about 4:30 a.m.
"He has always been a high energetic person," Dickerson said, adding that he attended a Mass presided over by Benedict in Rome about seven years ago.
"That was incredible," Dickerson said. "Anytime you meet a pope it is something really special."
Fort Worth Councilman Dennis Shingleton, a member of St. John the Apostle Church in North Richland Hills, said the selection of a new pope won't affect the daily lives of most North Texas Catholics.
"I think there's some interest locally in the conclave ... that is shrouded in secrecy," Shingleton said. "We don't really know that much about how they do that selection process so there's some mystery and curiosity."
One thing that could make the selection of a new pope more interesting to the public would be if he comes from a different part of the world, he noted.
The Rev. Stephen Jasso of All Saints Catholic Church in north Fort Worth asked Catholics to be reflective. He urged prayer for the selection process and for Benedict's health.
"I think the next pope will be elected by the Holy Spirit," Jasso said. "He can be from anywhere."
The announcement has some impact on the region's Catholic community. The Fort Worth Diocese has been without a bishop since December when the Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann was installed as bishop of Orange County, Calif.
Fort Worth Diocese officials said they aren't sure how the timetable will change with Benedict's announcement.
Diane Smith, (817) 390-7675
Bill Hanna, (817) 390-7698