VATICAN CITY - Catholic faithful in St Peter's Square reacted with amazement and emotion Monday at Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will resign later this month, though some said they hoped his successor would be more progressive.
Hundreds of believers converged on the heart of the Roman Catholic Church after hearing the historic news, swelling the usual small huddles of tourists on an overcast and chilly winter day in Rome.
"I love Benedict. We're really shocked he's resigning because he wasn't pope for long enough," said Sebastian Mazur, a seminarian from Poland.
"He hasn't finished his plan," the 21-year-old said.
Father Aaron Melancon, a 43-year-old priest from the United States, said: "The news is quite shocking. We have love and affection for Pope Benedict. I loved his writing as a cardinal and as a pope. I loved the leadership under him."
"He is the second pope in history to break the tradition and I am not in favour of this decision, but it is his own," Melancon said.
Marta, a 38-year-old Spaniard on holiday in Rome with her husband, said: "It's a really bad thing."
"He should have stayed for life, you can't just leave when you want to," she said.
Jennifer, 30, from Colorado in the United States, said: "I was really shocked. In our media-dominated culture, It's a unique challenge for the pope to be so available constantly so if he has lost some of his faculties, I guess he's done the right thing."
"It's sadder today than when pope John Paul II died because at least that was natural," she said.
Others were more critical of Benedict's pontificate.
Louisa, a 38-year-old from the Netherlands, said: "It's okay for him to resign, he's very old. And he wasn't as kind as John Paul II. We had the same discussion about our queen, who is very old and resigned at 75."
Sally Baker, 23, from Britain, said: "I actually respect him more for stepping down. It's a responsible act to be so honest to say you're not capable any more."
"I wasn't his biggest fan even though I'm German," said Eric, a 40-year-old tourist.
"It's an interesting time to resign, what with the child abuse scandal, I wonder if it was all just too much for him?"
Bart Vanhatten, 20, an Erasmus exchange student also from Germany, said: "I didn't like him at all. I expected more from him, especially on homosexuality. I hope the next pope will be more progressive."
Dorina, a 22-year-old Swiss woman on holiday, was equally hopeful for change in the Church.
"I hope that the next pope will be black, that would really make mentalities evolve," she said.