OGDEN — Monday began just as any day would when the sun didn’t come up.
That was how Ogden resident Michael Joseph reported it felt to hear that Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.
But as the day wore on, Joseph said, his faith was restored. “Even though this faith is over 2,000 years old, we can still learn things, and this has helped my faith to grow. I’m not discouraged any more.”
Citing failing strength of “mind and body,” Pope Benedict XVI stunned his closest aides and more than 1 billion Catholics by resigning Monday, becoming the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years and ending the tenure of a formidable theologian who preached a gospel of conservative faith to a fast-changing world.
Keeping with his reputation as a traditionalist, Benedict delivered his resignation — effective Feb. 28 — in Latin, to a private church body in Vatican City.
“I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” he said. “For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom, I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter.”
Local Catholics expressed some surprise at the announcement and then realized their admiration of a worldwide leader brave enough to do what he thought was best for the church.
“Very few of our other popes have lived to this age,” said Claudia Raab, of Ogden. “Given improved health, we will probably have others who will do this.”
Raab said she was impressed to learn that her pope will be resigning himself to a cloistered life inside the Vatican, where he will devote his time to prayer.
“This is just normal aging,” she said. “I think he is a very wise man for doing this.”
“I feel like he has the right to do that,” said Jeanette Smyth, of Ogden. “He’s 85 years old. There is so much he has to do. If he doesn’t have the stamina to do it, God bless him.”
The pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, also a priest, said Monday that the pontiff had informed him of his decision “months ago.”
“He has gotten tired faster and faster, and walking has become hard for him,” Ratzinger said, adding that his brother — who was born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger and ordained a priest in the aftermath of World War II — did “the best he possibly could have done” in his role.
“It took a lot of courage,” said Sister Danile Knight, of Mount Benedict Monastery in South Ogden. “I admire him for doing what’s best for the church.”
Knight and Raab both related stories they had heard about how Benedict had watched his close friend, Pope John Paul II, wither with age at the end of his life.
“He didn’t want to have to ask people to be doing what he should be doing,” Knight said. “We will now sit back and pray for a new pope. I’m sure the Lord will send us a new pope.”
Father Clarence Sandoval, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Layton, said he wasn’t surprised at the announcement, given the pope’s advanced age.
Despite the physical challenges of the job, Sandoval said, the pope has been doing very well.
“This is the responsible thing,” Sandoval said.
“The decision is not for himself. It’s what is best for the church. I think it’s a wonderful decision on his part. He can help someone else in his position.”
Father Ken Vialpando, pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Ogden, discussed the blessing Benedict has been to the church for the time in which he has served.
“He hasn’t skipped a beat,” he said. “He has followed through with the plan of Pope John Paul II.”
Vialpando said because of Benedict’s age and health, it was probably inevitable that he would retire.
“We wish him the best,” he said.
News reports credit Benedict for charting new directions for the church in his more than seven years as pope in ways that will affect Catholicism around the world for years to come.
A theologian and scholar by training, news reports state, Benedict has continued to write extensively even as he has governed the church.
Vatican experts reportedly have said his body of writings, speeches and homilies may be as significant to understanding his pontificate as John Paul II’s travels and public outreach were to assessing his reign.
But Benedict also has traveled widely and has appointed many of the bishops now serving in dioceses around the world, as well as most of the cardinals who will vote on a successor.
The conclave to choose the next pope is expected to convene in mid-March, with a new pope in place in time to preside over Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.