PITTSBURGH - Shock was the initial reaction most Pittsburgh-area Catholics said they felt when first learning about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said he visited with the pope in October and noticed his health was worsening.
"What I did see was how much deliberately others had to help him walk. He was having a difficult time walking. You hold your breath to make sure he was not going to have an accident," Zubik said.
Many people who attended mass at St. Paul's Cathedral Monday morning said they were surprised to hear about the pope's health and more so his intention to resign.
"I was surprised, but he's hold and I think he's probably ready to move on and let someone else take over now," Mercedes Dauer said.
"You're supposed to take it for life but we are human. Things like this happen," Tim Reick said.
"I think that he should look after his own health. I mean, God wants us to look after ourselves as well as the church," John Yeager said.
Zubik said he will be at the Vatican on Feb 28, the same day the pope is scheduled to resign. He was also there in 2005 when Benedict was named pope.
He added that he thinks now is not the time to speculate on who will be the next leader of the Catholic Church.
"I don't think we should speculate as to will it be an American, an Italian, someone from Europe, from South America – I think we need to pray it will be someone deeply rooted in their love for God and the church," said Zubik.
However, some Cardinals with strong Pittsburgh connections are expected to play an important role in that process.
Channel 11’s Alan Jennings reported that three Cardinals who once served in Pittsburgh will be among the 118 who elect a new pope.
“I think when we go into the conclave what has to drive all of us and what has to be upper most in the minds and hearts of all of us is what is God asking of us in making a choice,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said.
In addition to Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Daniel Denardo and Cardinal Sean O’Malley will be part of the election process.
Greensburg Bishop Lawrence Brandt released the following statement Monday about the Pope’s resignation, “While I am deeply saddened by the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation, I am extremely grateful for his selfless service to the Catholic Church, especially over the past eight years as our Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter. Pope Benedict is a brilliant scholar and a holy priest and bishop.
“Raised in the midst of the horrors of Nazism and World War II, he has spent his life teaching the Word of God as the response to the evil, godless secularism he saw in Nazism and communism. He has always been focused on the eternal truths of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and has constantly taught us about the dangers to our lives and souls posed by modern relativism and its child, which is secularism.
“I was blessed to meet and talk with Pope Benedict in December 2011 and hear him describe his initiatives in the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith, which he launched last October. These will be lasting gifts to the Catholic Church. We call on the Holy Spirit to guide its Church in the search for a successor, as we prayed nearly eight years ago when Blessed Pope John Paul II left us and Pope Benedict was called to lead us. And we pray that God continues to watch over Pope Benedict as he continues his post-retirement service to the Church.”