Hurricane Katrina turns 10: Remembering gun confiscation in New Orleans
Army axes Green Beret who stood up for Afghan rape victim
Jorge Ramos removed from Donald Trump press conference
How the slaughter of African elephants finances terrorism
WBDJ7 Live TV crew ATTACKED by gunman
Cartel smugglers easily scale border fence
St. Louis woman's Black Lives Matter rant goes viral
'Stealing from companies like Wal-Mart shouldn't be a crime'
Trump: Mitt Romney 'let us down'
URGENT message from Jonathan Cahn
WASHINGTON - The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI today that he will resign over health issues – the first time a pope has resigned in 600 years – left American Catholic leaders stumbling for words.
"We are, of course, all surprised today by the announcement of the pope that he will resign at the end of the month," said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
"Popes have the authority to do this, of course, though it has rarely been exercised."
While speculation immediately was launched regarding a possible replacement, Pavone focused on what Benedict has done.
"We view the pope's action here in a positive light, as an expression of his concern and love for the church. He wants the church to have a pope who can fulfill his role with the strength and vigor that the office requires," said Pavone.
Pavone's organization is the largest Catholic group dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia.
"My own interactions with Pope Benedict have been in the arena of his defense of human life, and we at Priests for Life thank him in particular for the ways in which he has continued to announce and implement the church's pro-life teachings," he said.
In an interview with WND, Pavone said the resignation was "an act of responsible leader."
"He signaled to the church ... that there is a great stability to the church. He has recalled this and that the teachings remain and has in a beautiful way articulated these positions."
Pavone noted the church's expansion in Africa and Latin America, a pursuit the new pope undoubtedly will continue.
He said, too, that a new pope will be "concerned more with the new evangelization" mission than the dynamics of any liberal-conservative tension.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the pope's legacy is secure.
Benedict, he said, "made it clear that religious freedom was not only a God-given right, it was 'the path to peace.'"
In a posted statement, the organization said Benedict's "many references to what he called 'the dictatorship of relativism' were a constant reminder that one of the greatest threats to freedom today is the abandonment of the search for truth."
The Catholic League noted the pope's work on reaching out to non-members and his crackdown on priestly sexual abuse.
The pope's "willingness to step aside comes as a surprise this Monday morning. What is not surprising is his humility," the statement said. "Indeed, it is one of his most defining characteristics, one that separates him from today's egocentric public figures."
Benedict's resignation letter said: " After having repeatedly examined my conscience 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 the Petrine ministry."
The author of "From Sabbath to Sunday" spent years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and explains the "political, social, pagan and Christian" factors that changed "a Holy Day into a holiday."
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told CBS he was as startled as the rest of the world.
In a statement, Dolan said Benedict "unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church."
"More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed."
In a report in The Hill, House Speaker John Boehner said people were "inspired" by Benedict when he visited the U.S.
"The prayers and gratitude of American Catholics are with Pope Benedict XVI today," he said. "The Holy Father's decision displays extraordinary humility and love for the Church, two things that have been the hallmarks of his service."
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, now chairman of Patriot Voices, said, "The news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation comes as quite a surprise to Karen and me. We respect his decision and see it as an example of his great humility, spiritual leadership, and commitment to his faith. We pray for the church, St. Peter and all the Saints, for the church's leadership, and for the faithful for the work they will do in the coming weeks to elect a new Pope. May God bless and keep Pope Benedict XVI."
Anarchy in South Africa
The Firearms Registration Act of 2010 has done nothing to stop crime In South Africa
The most dangerous job in the world: A white farmer in South Africa
Rolling blackouts in South Africa become security issue
Battle of Blood River, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, December 16, 1838
Cecil John Rhodes statue removed in South Africa by radical, political movement
The return of Planet X
Universe reveals 'web of creation'
Are your phone's GPS settings betraying you?
Tall tales or mysteries? Monsters roam the Midwest
'Ghost rockets' proof of aliens on Earth?
Climate cycles reveal 'global warming' all wrong
EPISODE 10.4: Done being a pushover
EPISODE 10.3: Full-speed ninja defense
EPISODE 10.2: Jeeves faces his arch-nemesis
EPISODE 10.1: You're an overcomer
EPISODE 9.3: The only thing that scares Molotov Mitchell
EPISODE 9.2: Handsome Scott takes on 'The Wasp'
Science in Bible often startlingly accurate
Did Jonah see mountains in depths of sea?
Catch a falling star: Perseid meteor shower
Much scientific knowledge predicted in Scripture
'Pathfinder of the Seas' inspired by Bible
Hydrothermal vents prove Scriptural insight
'Misapplied mythology' being applied to the Savior
Are you practicing compromised Christianity?
The messenger is always blamed
Faith includes doing what God tells us to do
Laws of God are 'counted as a strange thing'
Why are believers taught to make excuses?