Hopes for modernization within the Catholic Church and a younger pope were on the minds of Nazareth area Catholics when news broke Monday morning that Pope Benedict XVI will resign Feb. 28.
"I always thought Pope John Paul II was good for the church in terms of modernizing it," said Christine McDevitt Burke on Nazareth Patch's Facebook page. "I was worried that Pope Benedict's conservatism would bring strict changes. While there have been changes, I'm hoping for a successor who is younger, perhaps NOT from Europe, and has a modern vision for the younger generation of Catholics."
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When asked about whether Pope Benedict "modernized the church," the Rev. Thomas Dailey, director of the Salesian Center for Ethics at DeSales University, said, "it depends on what you mean."
"He has a website, he's on Twitter, so in that way yes," Dailey added. "Otherwise, quite frankly, no. No pope takes his direction from the way the world works."
Pope Benedict, 85, became the oldest pope seven years ago. But due to declining health, he is stepping down.
Adding to Burke's comment, Nazareth resident Debbie Duffy suggests an age limit be instituted.
"[If] you want younger people to stay or go back to church, there needs to be [a pope] around their mindset," Duffy said.
In nearby Forks Township, local Catholics were shocked and saddened by the news.
"I feel a lot of sadness," said Keri Alvigini Cwiak, a former Forks Township resident of 10 years who recently moved to Ohio.
Cwiak recalled the day when the pope was selected. She had adopted her son from Russia and watched the pope's selection on Russian television.
"Holding our new son and seeing the white smoke rise above the Sistine Chapel and the ringing bells made the day extra special for us," she said. "In my mind, it was a sign from God."
Allentown Diocese Bishop John Barres said in a statement issued Monday that the pope's decision to resign is "an act of great courage and humility."
Barres noted that the pope's decision to step down due to failing health came on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes -- Lourdes is a shrine of healing in France -- and World Day of the Sick.
Dailey shared these sentiments, saying the timing of the resignation may be designed to draw "attention not just to his physical health but his intellectual health and his stamina. I think that by making this declaration today, he's calling the world's attention that the lack of vigorous health is part of the human experience."
The Rev. Joseph Tobias, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Nazareth, could not be reached for comment Monday.