You could have knocked us down with a palm frond.
There it was, late Monday afternoon, on the internet, 86-year old Pope Benedict XVI, during a routine meeting at the Vatican with cardinals to discuss the canonization of three potential saints revealed his decision - in Latin - to, 'because of failing strength of body and mind,' resign his position as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The announcement, indeed the decision, came as a total surprise to not only the one-billion Catholics around the world, but also the entire hierachy of the Roman Catholic Church including Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi who scrabbled together a press conference to discuss the matter with an equally surprised press corps who cover the Vatican, and who were witnessing one of the most dramatic acts in the history of the papacy.
The last pope to resign - and there have been only four - was Pope Gregory XII who resigned in 1415 in order to end the Great Western Schism.
Mere minutes after the news hit the internet, the entire Twitterverse fired up @Pontifex -yes, this pope has his own Twitter account - with messages ranging from the outraged to the funny to the prayerful, including '@Pontifex a pooped pope?'
In downtown Tampa, Bruce Frechette, known as 'Donut Dude' and who is the owner of the Hot Donut Company food truck right across from City Hall regularly hangs the front page with the story du jour on his front window, and on Tuesday morning, he chose to bend the fold in the the Tampa Bay Times to showcase the story.
Above the fold was another shocking story, the guilty plea entered by former GOP party charrman Jim Greer in the theft, fraud and money laundering case against him.
"The Pope trumps Greer everytime," Frechette said with an impish grin.
In Gaslight Square Park, during a breakfast put out by the Food Not Bombs for homeless people, a Buddhist monk who was present was, well, non-commital.
One of the organizers of the 'feed' was somewhat harsh, and cited the Catholic Church's stance during the revelations of the sex-abuse scandals which were laid right at the pope's feet in 2010, and said that even though the pope had instituted new policy guidelines for the church regarding sex-abuse of minors, he had also been part of the cover-up by encouraging bishops to overlook the abuses.
Hopefully, Pope Benedict will be remembered in the hearts and minds of Catholics - and in the history books - as the man who was known as "God's Rottweiler," in his role under his predecessor, Paul John II as the Guardian of the Faith, a job he performed both then and during his tenure as pope by tenaciously defending traditiional Catholic values.
And not for the many gaffes, such as inflaming the Islamic world into riots by his remarks, and once by informing reporters aboard the papal jet bound for his trip to Africa that the spread of AIDS on that continent was largely because of the use of condoms.
Most likely, he will be remembered by most Catholics who actually practice their faith as the shy and introverted scholar and writer who had to follow the toughest act to follow, the charismatic and universally loved Pope Paul John II.
Catholics like, Karen, who stood outside Curtis Hixon Park on early Tuesday afternoon, having a hilarious conversation with friends about just what did you actually give up for Lent these days.
"He is smart to do that, " she said. "And compassionate and obviously he cares very much about the Church and all of us who rely upon him enough to know it is time for him to step down if he cannot do the job."
And she added, "We can only hope the next Pope is up to the job, and cares as much."
That next Pope will be elected quickly by the conclave of Cardinals who will gather in Rome within the next weeks to choose that man who will lead the billion Catholics in the world.
God willing, he will be the right man for the job...and the age we live in.