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In Concord, Surprise Over Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation Announcement

While unprecedented, Ken Meltz, director of faith formation at Concord's Holy Family Parish, wonders whether the pope's resignation could be precedent-setting.

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement yesterday that he will resign the papacy at the end of this month “took everybody by surprise,” says Ken Meltz, director of faith formation at Concord’s Holy Family Parish.

“It’s kind of unprecedented in he current age,” said Meltz, “But his age and the schedule that he keeps underscore his reasons for resigning.”

But because it’s without precedent doesn’t mean it won’t be precedent-setting.

As times when the pope would rarely leave Rome gave way to a modern era in which the pope travels the world as a global leader, Meltz said it’s possible those increased travel demands could lead to more papal resignations. Before Benedict, the last time a pope resigned the papacy was six centuries ago.

Expectations are for the Vatican to summon a conclave of cardinals in a few weeks. A conclave is the process used to elect the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Meltz said the pope’s resignation was the subject of lunchtime conversation at Holy Family on Monday, with people conjecturing about possible successors.

“Because it’s so without precedent, I think it’s going to take some time for people to work through the possibilities,” said Meltz. “But I think most Catholics will be pretty hopeful that a good choice is made for a good leader of the Church and for the World.”

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