PUTNAM COUNTY - On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement to Catholics around the world, sharing his health is what brought on the decision.

Benedict is the first Pope in nearly 600 years to step down from the position. However, Fr. Tony Fortman of St. John The Baptist Parish in Glandorf shared he was not too surprised about the announcement.

Fr. Fortman said he could recall something that was asked of Pope Benedict in his book on tape. "I was not really surprised. In his book he was asked if he thought it was okay for a Pope to resign if he was not physically well and he shared that he felt it was alright to do," explained Fr. Fortman.

Because this is such an unusual occurrence, Fr. Fortman is unsure if this action will set a precedent.

"It may be more likely a future Pope will resign, but it might take another 600 years for it to happen," he said. Fr. Fortman shared he felt Pope Benedict is setting an example for us on how to live. "Pope Benedict is showing us how to live our human life. He's very humble," he commented.

Pope Benedict's timing is very close to the Lenten season and Fr. Fortman expressed Pope Benedict probably wanted to announce it before Holy Week. "It is definitely going to draw attention to the Catholic Church, but he picked a time where the election would be finished by Holy Week. I'm sure there was a lot of praying before he made his decision," Fr. Fortman stated.

Fr. Mark Hoying of St. Michael's in Kalida agreed that in the future, Popes might be more likely to retire. "I think a large part of it has to do with people living longer. That wasn't the case 600 years ago, so I definitely think it is a possibility in the future," he said.

After hearing the news, Fr. Hoying was surprised but thinks it's for the best, "If he feels he can not serve us in the best possible way, it's a good thing," he shared.

Fr. Hoying stated he does not see the Pope's resignation directly affecting Catholics in our area.

"I don't think our local parishes will see a big difference because we do not deal with the Pope on a day-to-day basis," said Fr. Hoying.

Over the last few months, Pope Benedict had been showing signs of age. He often seemed tired and even appeared to doze off during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve after being taken to the altar of St. Peter's on a wheeled platform. A successor will likely be elected by conclave before Easter on March 31.