GREEN BAY - Individual Catholics as well as Catholic leaders in the Green Bay Diocese were taken aback by the announcement, and that includes the bishop of the diocese.
Bishop David Ricken said Pope Benedict XVI's resignation comes as a surprise even to him.
The bishop had been working with students at a seminary in Illinois. Ricken says he received the news around six in the morning, after turning on the television. He quickly confirmed the information with seminary staff.
He hurried back Monday afternoon to address his faith community.
Ricken called the pope's decision a courageous one, and thanked him for his many years of service in the Catholic Church.
Ricken said in a news conference Monday afternoon that he met Pope Benedict several times over the years, and found him to be "one of the kindest men I've ever met."
"Pope Benedict traveled around the world, sharing his love of Christ with all those he encountered. He especially spoke for the world's poor and worked to unite all Catholics, in many cases drawing them back to the Church," Ricken said in his prepared statements.
Catholics heading into noon mass in Green Bay Monday said the news of the pope's resignation is still sinking in.
"They always have a transition in case something happens to him, but it was kind of a shock," said Len Walczyk, a life-long Catholic.
Religious studies professors at St. Norbert College say a pope hasn't resigned since 1415.
"There is an allowance made. A pope can resign if he does so freely and not under duress. Benedict's statement today used that legal language 'I freely renounce,'" said St. Norbert College associate professor of religious studies Thomas Bolin.
So what happens next?
The College of Cardinals, whom are church leaders from around the world, will come to meet at the Vatican.
They'll enter a conclave. That's a special closed door meeting in the Sistine Chapel.
The cardinals will then vote which one of them will be the next pope. But, Pope Benedict won't be involved.
"Cardinals over the age of 80 aren't allowed in the voting process," Bolin explained.
Many speculate Pope Benedict's successor could break tradition and not be picked from a European country.
"The future of the church is very much in the southern hemisphere, Latin America or Africa. So it would make sense to have a Latin American or African Pope," said Bolin.
Some Catholics in the United States say they'd like to see Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and former Archbishop of Milwaukee, elevated to the post.
Monday Dolan expressed his well-wishes for Pope Benedict.
"I just always admired him as a scholar, as a priest, as a holy man, and now my admiration for him is even higher, because of his humility," Dolan said in a press conference in New York.
But with pedophilia scandals rocking the Catholic Church in the United States, experts say Dolan's chances of being pope are slim.
"He's very well-liked in the Vatican but I would say any American is a long shot," said Bolin.
Pope Benedict says he plans to retire to a life of quiet prayer in a monastery. Because he's renounced his title, he will go back to being known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
After almost 80 years, a piece of naval history is on its way home. A model of the Japanese luxury liner Hikawa Maru is being packed up in Manitowoc and returned to Japan.
Visitors to Green Bay's Neville Public Museum will soon see hours slashed. The county-owned attraction is cutting access starting the first of the year.
An 11-foot-long model of the Japanese passenger liner Hikawa Maru is being sent back to Japan after 34 years at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
Area volunteers are making a difference in the community this holiday season. At this time of the year, many people are looking for ways to help their neighbors. The Salvation Army is one of the many places where you can do just that.
For the second year in a row, St. Norbert College could house overflow of homeless people from the St. John the Evangelist shelter in Green Bay.
A memorial fund has been created for a Grand Chute firefighter killed in a weekend car crash.