The Wantagh-Seaford Catholic community along with the rest of the world awoke Monday morning to the surprising news of Pope Benedict XVI announcing he would step down at the end of February.
The announcement came in Rome from the ailing pontiff, who has been in deteriorating health, and indicated he is too sick to carry on his duties.
It will be the first time in 600 years that a sitting Pope has abdicated the Throne of St. Peter.
Father Frank Nelson, pastor at Maria Regina Catholic Church in Seaford, said he respects Benedict's decision and applauded his work at the Vatican since taking over in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II.
"He has brought a great sense of heart and compassion to the papacy," said Father Nelson, who has been the spiritual leader at Maria Regina since last June. "He finds a way to teach what he believes in a very believable way."
Benedict's resignation sets the stage for the conclave, a secret meeting in Rome of all church Cardinals under 80 years old to decide his successor.
The word "conclave" means, literally, "with a key." Symbolically, the College of Cardinals can not leave the conclave without deciding on a new leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.
Nelson said he hopes whoever is selected as the next Pope will continue the recent momentum Benedict has led in communicating to the world through social media and other online platforms.
"We will continue to keep him in our prayers and pray for his successor," Nelson said.
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