Pope Benedict XVI Successor May Be First Non-European Supreme Pontiff

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Pope Benedict XVI (credit: Stefano Carofei - Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

Pope Benedict XVI (credit: Stefano Carofei – Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — News of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation sent shock waves throughout the Catholic Church on Monday. The shock may continue for some if speculation of a major shift in the papacy proves true.

When a conclave is held to elect Pope Benedict’s successor in March, many believe the new Supreme Pontiff will be the first to come from somewhere other than Europe.

“We might see an Asian pope, we might see an African pope, we might see a South American pope, because the church is really growing strong in those areas,” father Aaron Kuhn says.

Kuhn was visiting from Minnesota Monday when the Vatican confirmed the 85-year-old leader was stepping down due to his advanced age and diminishing capacity to effectively fulfill the duties leading the Catholic Church.

Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, Rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, says the pope’s announcement “came as a surprise to the entire world.”

In Washington, visitors of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception expressed their surprise and gratitude for the 85-year-old leader, who is stepping aside due to his advancing age and diminishing strength.

“This decision by our Holy Father exhibits the great strength and humility of Pope Benedict, recognizing his own human limitations as well as his pastoral solicitude for the well-being of the Universal Church,” said Rossi.

The monsignor recalls fondly the pope’s visit to the National Shrine during his Apostolic Journey to the United States in 2008.

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