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St. Petersburg, Florida -- People attending the noon mass at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace in downtown St. Petersburg were surprised by the Pope's announcement, but not upset by it.

"I was surprised at first, but I think it was a very wise and prayerful decision," said Mary Domal before the service.

Pope Benedict is 85 and weakened by age. And even though it hasn't been done in some 600 years, worshipers say resigning and stepping aside now is the right thing to do.

"I think it's better to have him resign, than have him die suddenly and then everything goes into an uproar," says Rosa Matthew after Monday's mass.

John Shine agrees, "It's a demanding job and they need someone with the stamina to be able to do it," he said.

Bishop Robert Lynch has known the Pope for decades and shared a personal conversation with him just last May. Lynch says it doesn't surprise him that Pope Benedict would step down for the good of the church.

"I never saw anything smacking of power or anything along that line. I think he was a humble servant," said Lynch.

Any successor will inherit a church still plagued by sex abuse scandals and tensions between conservative and liberal wings.

Lynch says it is unlikely the next Pope will come from America, but beyond that it's a big question mark; there is not clear frontrunner.

"I think it's wide open," said Lynch. "I don't think there are any conversations about who might succeed or where he might come from."

The Vatican says there will be a new Pope by Easter.

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