Mid-Missourians split over importance of Pope's resignation

For the first time in about 600 years, a Pope is resigning, and people are split about what implications it will have on the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he announced he would resign February 28, saying he was too infirm to perform his duties.

Associate history professor at the University of Missouri Lois Huneycutt said the importance of this decision cannot be underestimated.

"It's historically unprecedented, it's theologically problematic, it's going to be talked about," she said. "In the history of the Catholic Church a thousand years from now this is going to be talked about."She also said that the Catholic Church has to be wary of a precedent the Pope's resignation may set.

"It kind of opens the door if there are future resignations, how do you know that these are not under pressure, are not politically motivated, that these are not really problematic."

Monsignor David Cox, from Immaculate Conception Church in Jefferson City, said the Pope's ability to make the decision shows how much the Catholic leader cares for the Church.

"I'm extremely hopeful because just for Pope Benedict to realize that he is unhealthy enough that he can't lead the church, and that somebody else should step up and do that I think that that's really spirit-led," he said. "It's a gift from God to the church."

He also said that he believes this whole process is being guided by a higher power.

"The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church and if the Pope's decided that this is what he should do through his prayer and reflection, then it's going to be a tremendous thing for us," he said.

John Gaydos, Bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City released this statement earlier Monday:

"As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, prepares to retire from his ministry as Universal Pastor of the Church, all of the people of God in our Diocese of Jefferson City offer fervent thanks to God for the nearly eight years that Pope Benedict has exercised the Petrine ministry. He has taught clearly and wisely, he has ruled gently and firmly, he has prayed with and for us and the whole world. I am grateful that our Holy Father has come to this prayerful decision, and ask all of our Local Church and all people of good will to join together in praying to God for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit during this time of transition for the Catholic Church throughout the world."