“Like everyone else in the church I was very surprised that he would do it,” said Father William Cosgrove of Saint Augustine’s Parish in New City.
He was referring to Monday morning’s announcement from the Vatican that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning at the end of February.
Father Cosgrove said he realized health issues and age played roles in the decision of the 85-year-old pope but it was still unexpected.
“It hasn’t been done in 600 years, the last one was in 1415,” he said.
With the news coming at about 6:15 a.m., Father Cosgrove said parishioners at the 6:30 a.m. Mass had just heard it and were absorbing the information.
“Everyone was just kind of surprised, bewildered,” he said. “This just came out of the blue.”
Isabelle Fenton, Church secretary at St. John's Catholic Church in Piermont, had similar thoughts on the resignation.
"We all feel very sad about it because he's an amazing and intellectual holy man. We had noticed that his health has been deteriorating visibly and while his mind is all there, it’s a tremendous job that he has to carry out at his age," she said.
Nanuet resident and former St. Anthony's student, Barbara Chuck was very shocked at the news.
"I’m so surprised. That's almost unheard of. I've never heard of (a Pope resigning) before. He's been traveling a lot, He was just in the Middle East. I did not think that would happen,” she said, adding that she’s surprised to hear the news, but not surprised, after some thought, because of the Pope’s age. Barbara Chuck is a past president of the Nanuet Lions Club, a volunteer organization. “It's like our members. We have one person that is 81; they're no longer an active Lion, just a volunteer now.”
Editor's Note: Cardinal Timothy Dolan issued a statement on the pope's resignation.