The pope will step down at the end of February due to what he says are age related issues.
The election of a new pope is steeped in ritual and tradition.
The rite of passage is marked by a signal of white smoke from the Vatican.
“I was surprised that he had retired because I didn’t know exactly that a pope could do this,” said Meredith LaPonsie, parishioner.
“I think it’s probably a good thing,”said Brian Shunta, parishioner “He’s 85, frail, wasn’t in the best of health.”
Parishioners in Grand Rapids were surprised overall, but OK with the fact that Pope Benedict is stepping down.
Now, comes the process of choosing a new pope.
Bishop Walter Hurley of Grand Rapids says when Pope Benedict leaves his post on Feb. 28.
More than 100 cardinals will be leaving for the Vatican at the end of February and will gather over a period of 15 days as part of a conclave, also called a college of cardinals.
The cardinals will vote in a new pope.
There are two cardinals currently serving in Michigan. However, they are more than 80-years-old and are not allowed to vote because of their age.
Once the qualified cardinals make a decision and ballots are cast, they are burned.
Smoke from a chimney symbolizes to the people there has been a vote.
However, the cardinals need a two-thirds majority to elect a pope.
If they don’t reach the two-thirds majority, the smoke will be black and they will keep trying to reach a decision.
If they reach that magic number, they show the people a new pope has been elected by creating a white smoke in the chimney when the ballots are burned.
Then, there will be an announcement in St. Peter’s Square.
Hurley says there may also be some new traditions created for Pope Benedict’s farewell.
It’s been 600 years since someone has resigned from the post and it could set a new precedent.
He says Pope Benedict will likely live at the Vatican in an apartment for the time being while he is retired.
But, his true dream was to return to his native Bavaria. Hurley says we will probably have a new pope elected by Easter.