While it was a shock to the system for many, local Catholic leaders say Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation earlier this week is actually an encouraging sign.
The first papal resignation in nearly 600 years may set an example for future pontiffs, the leaders said. And that might be a good thing.
"When you're 85 years old and you're trying to run a worldwide organization, I can understand it, and I can respect it," said Monsignor Vincent Krische, or "Father Vince," who was director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center for 28 years.
The pope has a unique job, Krische said, serving as perhaps the world's only global leader. So if that leader feels he is no longer capable of that kind of work, for him to step aside is setting a good example, Krische said.
On Wednesday, in his first public appearance since his announcement Monday, the pope said he made his decision for "the good of the church," because he was no longer strong enough for the job.
The Rev. John Schmeidler, priest at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lawrence, said he also was heartened by the idea that the pope would step aside if he feels it's best for the Catholic Church.
"I think the pope really wants the message to get out and the good news to be presented to the world," Schmeidler said.
The Rev. Mitchel Zimmerman trains future priests for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., but also lives and works at the St. Lawrence center just off the Kansas University campus.
When he first heard the news of the pope's announcement, he said, he was sad, because he loves and admires Benedict.
But he realizes, too, that as more and more people live to be 80 or 90 years old, it may no longer be realistic to expect popes to serve until death.
"I think it changes the papacy dramatically, but not necessarily for the worse," Zimmerman said. "And I'm optimistic to see who's going to be selected."
Krische and Schmeidler, too, said they had faith that Catholics' next leader would be the right person for the church's future.
"Wherever we'll be going, God's always there with it," Schmeidler said.
One thing's a bit of a mystery, though. Because the last pope to resign did so before the invention of the printing press — much less the advent of the modern media environment — it remains to be seen how the world will treat a former pope who is still alive.
"No one even knows what to do," Krische said.