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Bishop of San Diego Diocese "not completely" surprised by Pope's resignation

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The head of San Diego's Catholic church said Monday the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI "surprised all of us, but not completely."

Robert Brom, bishop of the San Diego Diocese, said he joins Pope Benedict in asking for prayers for the cardinals who will be tasked with choosing a successor.

The 85-year-old pontiff announced at a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican that he would step down as leader of the Roman Catholic Church on Feb. 28, citing his advanced age and declining strength. He's the first pope to resign from office in about 600 years.

"From the beginning of his pontificate in 2005, Pope Benedict has quietly indicated on occasion that he would resign if the time should come that he did not have the strength to fulfill the duties required of him as the successor of Peter," Brom said in a statement.

The bishop said the church has been blessed for eight years with a "gifted theologian, a man in love with the Lord, and a selfless servant of the church and the world."

The 265th pontiff has been reducing his workload recently and was reportedly advised to avoid taking any more transatlantic trips.

The Vatican's communications adviser said it's hoped that a new leader for the church will be selected in time for Easter services.

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