It has been a bit surprising to see the degree of attention being given to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the coming election of a new Pope by the Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. The publicity is international, mirroring the church’s membership.

The Pope’s resignation caught everybody by surprise, even his inner circle. In greeting the faithful Thursday for the last time, Benedict XVI said he is beginning the final stages of his life “simply a pilgrim” in his final journey.

He is the first Pope to resign in 600 years and the rarity of that is one reason why there is so much publicity. At age 85 and not in good health, he said in retirement he would be “hidden from the world” and would spend the rest of his life in prayer.

There is wide speculation as to the new Pope. Many believe it could be Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer. Forty percent of the world’s Catholics live in Brazil. Most people do not believe Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City will be elected, and he is considered a dark horse. Cardinal Dolan’s mother and other relatives live here. He is a native of St. Louis County and has said Mass at both Our Lady of Lourdes Church and St. Francis Borgia Church. He has come to Washington many times to visit relatives and comes and leaves quietly. He knows many people here.

The election of a new Pope always draws world attention, but with all the means of communication today, interest seems to have hit a new high. The Catholic Church has more than one billion members and that is another reason there is so much attention being given.