Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign at the end of February, according to a Reuters report.
The 85-year-old pope is unable to fulfill the duties of his office, Reuters said, because he is does not have the strength.
Benedict is the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages, according to Reuters.
Winchester Area Reacts to Pope Benedict's Impending Resignation
Pastor Richard Messina, who recently celebrated his 48th year as a reverend and has spent the past two decades at St. Mary's Parish in Winchester, supported Pope Benedict XVI's choice to resign this month given the circumstances.
"I think he recognized the fact that he is getting older and that he is perhaps not as alert as could be like when he was younger, and he decided for the good of the church that he should step down," Messina said. "It has not been done in 600 years, but it used to be done and now he is doing it and I admire him for doing that."
When it comes to the pontiff's legacy, Messina thought the pope "wasn't as forceful as I thought he would be," he said.
"When he was Secretary of Doctrine he was extremely strict (but) I don't think he was as strict as he used to be," Messina said. "I know he has made an effort to try and unite people so that he could create a balance with all the different levels of Catholic people from one extreme to the other.
"I do not know if he was 100 percent successful, but he tried to do that."
Messina was impressed by the pope for several reasons, calling him "a brilliant man with a wonderful knowledge."
When the pope was tabbed to lead the Catholic Church starting in April 2005, Messina said he did not expect Pope Benedict XVI to be the one chosen. The pope's predecessor was John Paul II.
"I was surprised when he was elected and a lot of people were," Messina recalled. "The seven years he has been pope have been interesting. We all have been watching to see what direction is he going in, what is going to happen and he did his best."
The next pope is expected to be named by Easter, according to multiple news reports.
"(The Catholic Church) has created so many cardinals and bishops that it is up for grabs," Messina said of the position. "...I would hope we would have a more open-minded, perhaps more liberal pope that would that would look at the issues today and say the world is different than it was 20 years ago, 50 years ago, and we need to respond to the issues of today and to the young people of today.
"...The world is changing and we do not want to sacrifice our morals, our principles or our dogma, but I think we can do a lot toward changing our attitudes toward things and I hope someone comes in with that mentality."
Pastor Beth Horne, who has served the Melrose Highlands Congregational Church for about four years, said she was surprised by Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign on Feb. 28.
"Pope Benedict's resignation certainly is surprising given the tradition of the papacy," wrote Horne in an email to Melrose Patch Monday afternoon. "My prayer for all my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters is for steadiness and hope in the days ahead.
"Times of transition in the Church are spaces when the Holy Spirit seems especially present to guide, challenge and comfort. May this be such a time of richness for those that are faced with selecting a new pope and for the Church as a whole."
A Differing Perspective
While he may be affiliated with a different religious denomination than the Pope Benedict XVI, Rev. Bruce Lomas of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Melrose said a papal resignation can have a direct impact on the church's relationship with other denominations.
"The one thing that I will take away from Benedict's time as the Bishop of Rome, is his helping to create the Anglican Ordinariate, giving Episcopal and Anglican priests and those who disagree with the current state of this branch of Christianity in regards to the ordination of women and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the ordination process," said Lomas in an email to Melrose Patch Monday.
"Many of them disagreed with the election and consecrating of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay and partnered Bishop. Personally, I do not count myself as part of that group having been a lifelong Episcopalian and fully supportive of our church as it seeks to be an open and inclusive community seeking to show Christ's love for all humanity.
"...I have never met Benedict, and although I do not agree either theologically or socially with Rome, I will keep that branch of Christ's Church in my prayers as they seek new leadership for the future."