GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - A snowstorm outside didn't deter Grand Rapid's parishioners from attending a noon Mass at Saint. Andrew's Cathedral. It was a service church leaders say had historic significance with Pope Benedict's resignation.
Parishioner John Oleck says, "It's been about 600 years since this last happened, I'm surprised and shocked, but I'm happy for Pope Benedict-- he served us well."
The last Catholic leader to resign was Pope Gregory XVI in 1415. He stepped down to bring unity to the church. Benedict's reasons are age and health.
For Bishop Walter Hurley, leader of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, the pope's resignation is personal. Pope Benedict appointed him and the two met up last year.
Bishop Hurley says, "You found a very warm person a very thoughtful person, a person of great depth in his thought and in his prayer."
Bishop Hurley says Pope Benedict was less outgoing than Pope John Paul II. He initially did not want to be appointed to the position but the bishop says Benedict rose to the occasion.
Hurley says, "Pope Benedict was much more the scholar, the academic-- a very introverted person."
The chairman of Aquinas College's Theology Department says he was "shocked" to hear the news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. Still, professor Robert Marko says he was "impressed" that the pope recognized he was not up to the task of running the Roman Catholic Church.
"It's characteristic of this gentle scholar, that's the kind of person he is. He's a rather prudent, thoughtful, incredibly clear thinker," Marko told WZZM 13.
Marko said he has used many of the pope's writings in his class work over the past two decades at Aquinas.
Marko said Pope Benedict's "tremendous" legacy includes a strong defense of religious freedom and engagement with "people of good will who can engage and talk about significant issues and the meaning of life and relationship of people in the public square and morality."