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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -
Early Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced he would be retiring effective Feb. 28, surprising billions of Catholic parishioners all over the world, including in Southwest Louisiana.
"I was just surprised to hear that he was resigning," said Lake Charles resident, Carolyn Witherwax. "I heard he was not in good health, so I'm sure they'll find somebody great."
The news of the Pope's sudden resignation was the talk amongst the ladies at Monday's bingo session at the Westlake Senior Center.
"I was surprised but when they have failing health, I think they should be able to retire or go to a home where they can be taken care of," said Westlake's Judy Vidrine.
That's a sentiment shared by another local parishioner at Lake Charles' Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
"I think everyone was shocked because our first thought is, well, did he die at first and then you say well no, he said he was resigning," said Beth Buller.
Resigning due to "advanced age," according to the Pope.
"How courageous and what a loving gesture it is to say I'm not capable to fulfill my duty and so I want to give it to someone who can," said Buller.
While Lake Charles Bishop Provost didn't go on camera with his reaction, he shared this statement with KPLC on the Pope's resignation:
"His apostolic journeys reached out to troubled areas of the world, and he diligently worked for unity amongst Christians and within the church. We all assure him of our prayers and support."
From the older generations to the younger generations, local parishioners tell KPLC the Pope has had a tremendous impact on their lives over the past eight years.
"This Pope specifically has been very active in promoting the growth of the church amongst the young people ... the Pope's a rock star," said Katie Prejean.
"As a young person in the church, the Pope is someone that we look up to for spiritual guidance and to lead us to Christ," said Michael Beverunge.
As the process will soon begin to elect a new Pope, local residents agree there is one necessary trait of Benedict's successor.
"I'm going to be looking for piety and holiness and you can see that in them when they pick him," said Vidrine.
The process to elect a new Pope will begin around March 1. There has to be a two-thirds plus one vote of the 118 voting Cardinals for a vote to be passed. NBC News has compiled a list of eight potential Cardinal contenders for the high leading position. Click here to view that list.