JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN—
Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world last week when he announced he would step down at the end of February.
The 85-year-old pope cited his advanced age, saying he no longer has the physical and mental stamina necessary for the job, as the reason he has decided to become the first pontiff to retire in 600 years.
Cardinals from around the world will meet at the Vatican, starting no later than March 15th, to elect a new pope from among their peers. The vast majority of the 117 cardinal electors are from Europe, but 11 African cardinals will also be casting their votes.
Among them is the Archbishop of Khartoum, Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, who felt compelled to write a letter to Roman Catholics confirming that the pope's impending retirement was not a hoax, even if it is without precedent in modern times.
VOA News spoke to some South Sudanese, many of whom put their astonishment at the pope's announcement behind them, thanked the pontiff for his service to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and looked forward to getting new leadership at the Holy See.
Listen to their reactions here: