ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The pope's resignation came as a surprise to almost everyone who heard the news this morning, including those at local Catholic schools.
For the eighth graders at Holy Family Catholic School, Pope Benedict XVI is the only pope they're old enough to remember. Ellen Fey said she learned about the Pope's resignation this morning during religion class.
"We just talked about whether he made the right choice or not, and I think he did," said Fey. "Because I mean he was getting old and he knew he couldn't be a pope that much longer if he wasn't, he didn't feel like it was right."
Religion teacher Kathy Green said Pope Benedict XVI will leave a lasting impression on the religion.
"Pope Benedict has been someone who has stood firm for the faith in a time when there has been a great attack," said Green. "And some different cultural trends who have tended towards away from faith. And you know, him bringing this year of faith ... inspiring the new evangelization, you know, calling people to come back to Christ has been a very powerful movement in the church."
The search has already begun for Benedict's replacement, and Bishop David Malloy of the Diocese of Rockford said one thing is most important when looking for a pope.
"Say what other elements were most impressive, it began for them with prayer and with their spiritual lives," said Malloy. "They were first and foremost priests for the world. I think that's something that we would very much hope and pray for. "
Ellen Fey agreed saying the new pope must first and foremost be a role model to young people like her.
In the coming weeks, more than a hundred cardinals from around the world will gather at the Vatican for a conclave to elect the next pope.