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Little Rock Diocese responds to Pope's resignation

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(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) In this Sunday, March 25, 2012 photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves from the popemobile wearing a Mexican sombrero as he arrives to give a Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) In this Sunday, March 25, 2012 photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves from the popemobile wearing a Mexican sombrero as he arrives to give a Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) - In this April 9, 2009 photo, Pope Benedict XVI offers a nun the Holy Communion at Christmas Mass (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) - In this April 9, 2009 photo, Pope Benedict XVI offers a nun the Holy Communion at Christmas Mass
(AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer) - In this Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves to wellwishers as he leaves the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, following a vespers service. (AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer) - In this Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 photo, Pope Benedict XVI waves to wellwishers as he leaves the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, following a vespers service.

(AP, KATV) - Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 - becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Catholic Church in deep turmoil.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Little Rock Diocese responded to the news in a written statement Monday. It said, in part:

"Although I am saddened by today's news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI for the reason of the enfeeblement of old age, I note that this is one more example of Pope Benedict's profound humility and love for the Church which he has evidenced so clearly throughout his eight years as pope.

"He reached out patiently to Catholics alienated from the Church, he worked hard to open the eyes of those who had fallen into doctrinal errors, and he proclaimed the primacy of charity as fundamental to the mission of the Church. He called for a more equitable sharing of the world's resources, relief for nations floundering under the burden of inherited international debts that exceeded their ability to repay and greater respect for the environment.

"Our next pope has big shoes to fill as did Pope Benedict when he succeeded Pope John Paul II. Let us pray for the College of Cardinals, that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they will choose for us a worthy successor well equipped to address the complex challenges we face in the world today."

Click here to read the full statement.

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