Northland's Catholic community is reeling with the shock announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign the papacy at the end of the month - the first papal abdication in almost 600 years.
The 85-year-old Pope, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, was selected as the 265th Pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, and his resignation came as a complete surprise.
The Pope declared he lacked strength of mind and body to continue as head of the Catholic Church worldwide and adherents are awaiting the process to choose their next spiritual leader.
Father Thige O'Leary, parish priest for the Catholic Church in Whangarei, said the news caught him by surprise.
"We are waiting to see the process of the election and who takes up the big and challenging task for the next few years. It's a big task being spiritual leader to the church with such a large group [of adherents]," Father O'Leary said.
Father Kerry Prendeville, from the Mid-north Catholic Church, said the resignation was a shock and surprise for Catholics worldwide.
"They haven't asked me to go to Rome so it's not my time yet [to be Pope]," Father Prendeville said.
Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland and leader of the church in the north, said it was with great sadness, but also genuine admiration for the boldness of the Pope, that he learned of his decision to resign.
"We are still in a state of shock at this announcement, coming as it did without any warning," Bishop Dunn said.
"The responsibilities and workload of the papacy is an enormous burden, and it seems that the Holy Father, with great courage, feels that his strength of mind and body no longer allows him to fulfil his duties as he would wish.
"We will continue to keep Pope Benedict in our prayers, with gratitude for his life of loving service to God and the Church, for his outstanding gifts of intellect and clarity of thought and expression, his great heart and example of prayerfulness and humility."