AUBURN | After the Monday announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he will resign, local Catholic church leaders reflected on a papacy marked by trying to reconcile the modern world with the traditions of the Catholic faith.

The now-85-year-old, German Benedict was elected pope in 2005 and said his advanced age and weakening health are the reasons he is stepping down. A pope hasn't stepped down since Pope Gregory XII did so in 1415.

Local church leaders agreed that Benedict's voluntary resignation is courageous.

"It takes a lot of courage to do what he did," said the Rev. Louis Vasile, of St. Alphonsus Church in Auburn. "Not everyone knows when to let go."

The Rev. Frank E. Lioi, of St. Mary's Church in Auburn, said Benedict is setting a good precedent by accepting that he has done all the good he can as pope.

"I think it's a wise choice on his part," Lioi said. "It's the best thing for the church in the long run that he leave when he's ready to leave."

Sister Chris Treichel, pastoral administrator at Sacred Heart and St. Ann churches, said although everyone was shocked by the news, it was good for the pope to recognize that he is no longer capable of doing the job.

"I think it takes a lot of humility to step down," she said.

Treichel said Benedict's resignation is something all her parishioners will be talking about, and the churches will try to educate the congregations on the process of the upcoming papal election. She also said they will pray during the selection process, and she is confident God will help the cardinals choose the best leader for this period in time.

Benedict is known for his conservative style. Vasile said it's difficult to say whether Catholics in Cayuga County will notice a change in governance style and added that there are 120 candidates for the position of pope, so it's anyone's guess as to who will be the next one.

"It depends on who the successor is," he said. "A new successor may very well move in a different direction."

The local church leaders each will remember Benedict for different skills he brought to the Vatican.

Vasile said Benedict has always set the tone for knowing right from wrong.

"He's a person of deep faith and conviction," he said. "He has been clear in his ability to relate to all ages. ... He assured people that there is certainly a moral stand in the world."

Lioi said Benedict's scholarly articles, books and encyclicals will go down in history.

"I think what he will be remembered for the most are his scholarly publications," he said. "He has very profound insights. He's gentle in how he puts things into words."

Treichel said Benedict helped Catholics better understand their faith.

"I think he did more for education," she said. "Like helping us to delve into our faith more. He was a great educator and writer."

Treichel said she would like the next pope to be a bit more progressive, a man who will recognize the contributions of every individual and every nation.

Both Vasile and Lioi said the successor needs to show modern Catholics a connection between their lives and the faith — to make Catholicism mesh with today's issues.

"When people are looking for his successor, they're going to look for someone who can bridge the gap between the world in which we live and our faith commitment to one another," Vasile said. "They're going to look for someone who can deal with contemporary issues."

"The current pope is the best of the last generation," Lioi said. "I think the new pope has to be aware of the tradition of the church, but be in touch with the modern society. I think the new pope has to help people see the connection between what's going on in their lives and their spiritual lives."

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or kelly.voll@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

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