A nun stands in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Monday. (Massimo Percossi / EPA )
VATICAN CITY – In rainy Saint Peter’s Square, the mix of opinions about the surprise announcement Monday that Pope Benedict XVI planned to resign ranged from admiration to anger.
James Cadman, 29, a seminarian from London, said the 85-year-old Benedict’s decision to step down for health reasons rather than dying in office like his predecessor “showed his greatness.”
“By putting the good of the church before his own desires he made this one of the greatest moments of his papacy,” Cadman said.
PHOTOS: Pope Benedict XVI to step down
Meanwhile, Liborio D’Amico, an Italian pensioner who attends the papal Mass in the square every Sunday, said he felt some anger toward Benedict for his decision to step down Feb. 28 after less than eight years as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“He should have stayed the course, as God requires,” said D’Amico, 62. “There is one God and one pope, so now there will be confusion in the Vatican. If he goes to live in the Vatican garden how can he really take off his papal robes? It’s all wrong. John Paul II fought on despite his illness – he had lots of courage.”
Some area residents said Pope Benedict never achieved the popularity enjoyed by Pope John Paul II, who famously endeared himself to Romans by asking them to correct his Italian in a speech, and that would help with a transition to a new church leader.
FULL TEXT: Pope Benedict XVI's announcement
“We have been a bit indifferent to Benedict, less affectionate, but we will be curious how it turns out because of the historical oddity,” said Giuseppe Teodoli, 31, as he unloaded books into the bookshop where he worked near the square.
Taxi driver Currao Placido, 47, said Italians are facing great economic difficulties, which will lessen the reaction to the pope stepping down.
“There has always been a special relationship between the pope and Romans, and we knew he was ill, but with all due respect right now we have a lot of problems with the economy and people are getting fired every day so this news won't resonate a lot,” Placido said.
Father Franz Joseph Baur, a German priest, called the pope’s announcement “a very modern decision.”
“When he wrote his books he was writing as a pope but wanted us to read them as the work of someone with a viewpoint,” Baur said. “He kept his personality as a private person, even though he was identified with the office. Now he has proved it is possible for him to return to being a man.”
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