UPDATE 2:39 p.m. Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez began Monday’s mid-day mass with a prayer for Pope Benedict, who'd announced his resignation a few hours before. Then Gomez spoke glowingly about the Pontiff who placed him in his current post - and about Benedict's decision to leave his job as he slowed down.
“His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the church,” Gomez said. “This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God, and the good of God’s people.”
Gomez informed parishioners at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A. about the coming conclave of cardinals that will choose the next pope.
His predecessor in L.A., Cardinal Roger Mahony, plans to attend. Mahony was recently pulled from daily duties in the L.A. Archdiocese amidst a scandal over how Mahony handled allegations of sexual abuse by priests. (You can view Mahony's full statement on the Pope's resignation below; the story continues beneath the window.)
Mahony said he looks forward to returning to Rome to help elect his successor.
This is the first time a Pope has resigned in nearly 600 years. Benedict's action shocked Ruth Guebara, a parishioner at Saint Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica.
“I saw the other Pope, that he stayed on until he died, and I thought this is the law,” said Guebara, a native of Guatemala who lives in Malibu. “But he has a right because he doesn’t feel OK.”
The conclave of cardinals must start 15 to 20 days after Benedict’s official resignation on Feb. 28. It involves two ballots each morning and two each afternoon in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel until one baptized Roman Catholic male garners the support of at least two-thirds of the cardinals.
The Vatican burns the ballots after each vote, and all eyes are on smoke from the chimney for clues about the result: White smoke means the cardinals have chosen a new pope. Black smoke means they haven’t yet - and have to keep voting.
Previously: The announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will step down took clergy and parishioners at St. Monica’s Church in Santa Monica by surprise. Some parishioners arrived at the church’s 6:30 a.m. mass without hearing the news, but Father Willy Raymond mentioned the announcement in remarks before he administered communion.
“For Catholics around the world, it’s surprising that he would resign,” Father Raymond told KPCC after the mass. “It represents a loss in a way, but it also represents a lot of hope because this man is saying, ’It’s not about me — it’s the welfare of the church that’s the most important.”
Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson led the 8 a.m. mass at St. Monica’s. He said he was surprised by the announcement but remembered that Pope Benedict had talked a few years ago in an interview about resignation.
“It just makes sense, that if he feels he no longer has the energy and strength, it’s an honest and clear decision on his part,” said Torgerson, the pastor at St. Monica’s Church.
As for what he’s looking for in the next pope, Torgerson deferred to the current pontiff.
“The Pope has suggested that it needs vigor, it needs strength, a younger person, someone that can grapple with the issues of a very changing world and changing time,” Torgerson said.