02/11/2013 05:29 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2013

Cardinal George On Pope Benedict's Resignation: Chicago Archbishop Surprised By News

Lay Catholics in Chicago weren't the only locals surprised by the news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. Cardinal Francis George, too, was apparently caught off guard by the Monday announcement.

According to ABC Chicago, Chicago Archbishop Cardinal George had just returned from a visit to Rome Sunday -- but the news was still new to him.

In a statement, Cardinal George on Monday described Pope Benedict XVI as someone who, "in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration."

"He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart. He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month," the statement continued.

Pope Benedict, 85, is the first pontiff to resign from his post in nearly 600 years. He cited health concerns as the reason for his surprising departure.

Now will come the task of selecting Pope Benedict's successor, a process that Cardinal George, 76, will be a participant in. George has already handed in his own resignation, but is expected to remain in his post for the next year and a half.

Meanwhile, some local Catholics, though surprised, welcomed the news as the start of a new chapter for Catholics worldwide, the Chicago Tribune reports.

It’s a new beginning and a chance for new energy in the church,” the Rev. Ed Shea of St. Peter's Church in the city's Loop told the paper. "This is good news.”




Pope Benedict XVI Resigns