MIAMI -

Catholics across South Florida reacted to Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he's resigning at the end of the month.

The pope said he will resign "because of advanced age."

READ: Announcement shocks Archbishop of Miami

"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," the pope said, according to the Vatican.

It's the first time a pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years.

"I was freaking out. I did not know a pope could do that," said one person.

"I thought that a pope was a pope until the day he died," said another.

Thomas Wenski, the Archbishop of Miami, said he was shocked when he heard Benedict was resigning.

"I think people are surprised because I think the pope was able to do this and scoop the world because none of the media found out about it," said Wenski. "There were no rumors leading up to this."

The pair went to Cuba together in March 2012, where Benedict met with Fidel and Raul Castro.

"He encouraged the Cubans and those in authority in Cuba to make Cuba a home where all Cubans can actually feel at home at for that he underlined the need for greater freedom," said Wenski, who said Mass in Havana during the trip.

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Lina Ramirez, a theology teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, said she felt pride in Benedict's announcement after the initial shock wore off.

"I think it takes a lot of courage and humility to do what he did," she said. "It shows great leadership on his part."

Sister Kathryn Donze, the principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, agreed.

"The world has certainly changed a lot and there are a lot more complex problems. You have to have both mental and physical stamina to deal with that," said Donze.

Cardinals will meet to choose Benedict's successor sometime after his official resignation on February 28, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.

"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," he said.

Benedict won't be involved in the decision, Lombardi said. But his influence will undoubtedly be felt. Benedict appointed 67 the 118 cardinals who will make the decision.