Catholics across the world and across the region are expressing surprise at Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement. It's the first time in nearly 600 years a pontiff has left the post before death.
Father Bob Flannery of St. Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale says the move could set into motion a new way of thinking for Catholic leaders:
"It'll be a very interesting time, and I think it's a good precedent. Because I think there are times when people can't continue on at that age or whatever age. It's good that the Holy Father realized it was time for him to resign and let someone else take the helm."
Flannery goes on to say the timing of the Pope's exit is not insignificant. This week marks the beginning of Lent, when Catholics all over the world will turn their prayers to the leadership of the Church.
"Lent is a time for spiritual renewal and praying for all kinds of conversion of heart. As the Cardinals will be gathering - whatever date that will be - it's a perfect time to be prayerful and to be offering up things, trying to ask the Holy Spirit to really guide the Cardinals as they make that selection."
Within hours of Pope Benedict the Sixteenth announcing his resignation at the end of this month, Catholic watchers all over the world began predicting who the next pontiff might be, or what direction the Church might be headed in.
Flannery says a quick look at history will show making predictions isn't always as easy as it might seem.
"The Holy Father has selected many of the Cardinals, so naturally you'd tend to think that they would be of his type of persuasion. But at the same time, so often it's been just the opposite when the Cardinals realize the Holy Spirit guiding them, maybe the Church is calling to a different approach."
Flannery says Pope Benedict's legacy will likely include work in reaching across religious lines and trying to work with other faiths on humanitarian causes.