St. Jude's Catholic Church parishioners:
"When I first heard, I was shocked. I mean, it's been 600 years since the last resignation. The dear man was 78 when he started. He was such a wonderful pope. Obviously it's a decision that he's prayed about a lot."
— Nora Monteith
"I guess I started his papacy thinking that no one could do better than Pope John Paul, but I came to love him instantly. The next pope has to be courageous. He has to be strong and I'm sure the will of God's going to provide for him."
— Russell DePrima
"I was shocked. It's very humbling for him to do that and to know his own capacity. He's 85, and with that weight on his shoulders, it's got to be tough. He's such a brilliant man. I think we all loved him. He's been a wonderful pope."
— Sharon Moss
"I think he's been absolutely wonderful. It shows his great love for the church and that he placed the needs of the church above his own."
— Sister Mary Evelyn, Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Nashville
Catholics around the world were stunned Monday by the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation from the papacy after just eight years as the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
Citing his declining health as the reason for the resignation, the pope set Feb. 28 as his last day.
"True to his deep devotion for the church and his overwhelming sense of humility, Pope Benedict ... has placed the care of God's people first," Knoxville's Bishop Richard Stika said in a news release. "This was a courageous decision made by Pope Benedict, and I thank him for his 8 years of selfless leadership."
Benedict is the first pontiff to resign from the papacy in nearly 600 years, which means the usual procedure for electing a successor doesn't quite fit the circumstances.
"The kind of thing to look for in the coming days will be a formal description of what process the church will follow," said Richard Follett, professor of history at Covenant College. "Though what impact having a living pope around will have on the proceedings is still a matter of speculation."
There is also quite a bit of speculation as to who the new pope will be.
Benedict focused most of his efforts on buttressing the church in Europe, said Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University in Texas.
"It's like any big business -- do you try and safeguard your traditional business, or do you try and look at the areas where you're expanding?" he said.
The church is expanding, just not in Europe. With over 300 million Catholics in Latin America and 135 million in Africa, many wonder if the next pontiff will come from the developing world.
"Given this trend," said Dr. Jay Green, professor of history at Covenant College, "it only makes sense that the College of Cardinals will give serious consideration to a new pontiff from this part of the world."
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.