The resignation announcement Monday from Pope Benedict XVI sent shock waves around the world and especially resonated in local communities such as Haddonfield.
"I was very surprised," said Kim Danielewicz, 45, a mother of two grade-schoolers at Christ the King Regional School in Haddonfield. "I was on my way to work when I heard it. My jaw dropped. This hasn't happened in 600 years."
Benedict, 85, the former German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected pope by Catholic cardinals in 2005. He will become the first pope to resign since the 1400s.
He read a statement in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals Monday that said,"Before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics, according to The New York Times.
Haddonfield borough Commissioner Jeff Kasko said he attended a ceremony for Benedict on the South Lawn of the White House a few years ago.
"I'll always remember it, just like I'll always remember today's announcement," he said.
Kasko had not made plans to see him in Philadelphia. He said he felt "sorrow" for the pope.
"This must be a very difficult decision for him," he said. "But I also feel gratitude, because it's such a selfless, courageous action. I'll be watching and waiting when the conclave meets to see who will be chosen the next pope."
John Rihl of Haddonfield said he, too, was saddened by the news of Benedict's resignation.
"He has reached many people through both his words and actions," said Rihl, 47. "He has my respect in doing this however, because it isn’t easy to give up the most important position in the church, but he must know that his health is deteriorating to the point that the church will be better served with someone that can devote their full time to its needs."
The installation of Bishop Dennis Sullivan as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Camden will take place during a Mass today at 2 p.m. at St. Agnes Church (Our Lady of Hope Parish) in Blackwood, Gloucester Township. Because of limited seating, admission is by ticket only. The ceremony will be broadcast live on EWTN (check cable listings in your area) and will stream live at www.camdendiocese.org.
CORRECTION: Benedict was elected pope in 2005. An earlier version of this story cited an incorrect date.