Ottawa's Catholics say Pope Benedict XVI right for his time

Catholics in Ottawa say they are stunned by news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, calling him a different kind of leader than his predecessor.

The Pope announced Monday morning he will be stepping down on Feb. 28 due to health reasons, which caught the world by surprise, with some Catholics in the capital still unaware in the afternoon.

Those who talked to CBC Ottawa said the Pope left his mark during his nearly eight years at the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

On the other hand, more progressive Catholics said this Pope alienated them by turning a blind eye to revelations of sexual abuse in 2010.

St. Paul's University professor Cathy Clifford said the scandals helped show what had to change in the church.

"During his pontificate (it was) revealed that this is a much larger problem than what have been first imagined," she said. "A lot more measures have been put into place to discipline perpetrators of abuse."

Terrence Prendergast, the Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa, said Monday he last saw the Pope a little over three weeks ago in Rome.

"I wondered how long such a frail man could keep up the pace," he said at an afternoon news conference.

"Today I am full of admiration for Pope Benedict's courage in admitting the demands of office were exceeding his physical and intellectual capacity."

The resignation, the first since 1415, had some Catholics in Ottawa wondering if there should be a mandatory papal retirement age.

"What you dont want is a situation where Cardinals are unhappy, where say a pope suffers from Alzheimer's and won't step down from office," said Prendergast.

"That would be a crisis, perhaps we'll have to find a way of dealing with that later."

There is a 20-day window for a new pope to be chosen after Pope Benedict steps aside.

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