Pope John Paul was a hard act to follow, but his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, has done his best to fill the shoes as head of the Roman Catholic Church for the last eight years.
Today the Vatican announced that the 85-year-old pope will resign by the end of February because of his inability to fulfill the duties of his office. The pontiff said his strength "has deteriorated" in the last few months, according to a CNN report.
It will be the first time in 600 years that a pope has resigned, rather than die, in office. It may also mean huge changes ahead for the Catholic Church.
Many Catholics were taken aback by the news, and expressed sympathy for the pope.
"I was shocked," said said Maplewood resident Sara D'Andrea. "After looking at the footage of him he has obviously declined the last few months. He understands that given today's demands (constant press, speeches and all that goes along with life in the 21st century) it was too much and that is admirable. I felt a little sad hearing them say that once he abdicates he'll go back to being John Ratzinger. After giving his life to the church I hope there is some sort of title for him."
Father Chris Beirne of Saint Rose of Lima in Short Hills also was suprised. "His health seems to be failing so I can understand why," said Beirne. "As far as the future is concerned, so many things will change so quickly."
Margaret Connors, parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley in Orange, said, "Our church will pray for him and for his successor, who will be chosen soon, I hope," she said.
"I'm not concerned (about finding a successor)," Father Beirne continued. There are many things in place already that will continue with the church until a new pope is elected. Depending on his personality, that will mark the course of the future."
SPEAK OUT: What do you think the Pope's resignation will have on the Church? Is it a good thing, or do you fear what may be coming? Tell us what you think.