A local pastor says he "applauds" the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down as leader of the Catholic Church.
The 85-year-old pontiff announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 because the physical demands of the job are becoming too much for him. In doing so he becomes the first pope to step down since Gregory XII left his leadership in 1415.
Fr. Bill Swichtenberg of St. Mary Parish in Algoma says he thinks Pope Benedict has the best interests of the Church at heart.
"He feels he doesn't have the energy to do what needs to be done in terms of just the physical demands of this ministry," says Fr. Swichtenberg.
As for how he plans to relay the news to parishioners, Fr. Swichtenberg says his message will be that "everybody deserves to retire." He says it's possible the pope's decision may set a precedent for future leaders of the Church.
"Maybe we won't have terms of office but maybe it's a good thing that a pope would say, 'I need to retire, I can't do this anymore,'" says Fr. Swichtenberg.
In a statement, Green Bay Bishop David Ricken said he was "shocked" by the decision but called it a "courageous" one and thanked the pope for his years of service.