Updated 02/13/2013 05:54 PM
Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday during church's time of transition
When Pope Benedict announced Monday he’d be stepping down at the end of February, he set the Catholic Church into a period of transition during one of its holiest times of year. YNN’s Matt Hunter reports.
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CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – With Ash Wednesday marking the official start of the 40-day Lenten Season, Capital Region Catholics have embarked on one of the holiest times of the year.
"We say more prayers, we reflect on what happened and we hope that our lives will improve," said Clifton Park resident Dorothy Giebel, who attended mass Wednesday afternoon in Clifton Park with her husband, Ronald.
"This is a special time of reflection and it's good for us to do that," Clifton Park resident Kathy Masucci said.
The several hundred people in attendance for the afternoon service at Saint Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park Wednesday represent a small sampling of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, all of whom will in some way be affected by Monday's news from the Vatican that Pope Benedict will resign at the end of the month.
"The Pope has hinted at this in the past, that if he was no longer able to do the duties of the office, if he didn't have the strength to do it, that he would retire,” said Father Patrick Butler, pastor at Saint Edward’s. “But it's still a shock."
While Pope Benedict has been viewed as a progressive, it remains to be seen what qualities his successor will bring to the role. Local Catholics seem to have different views about what traits are most essential.
"Someone who is a good communicator, someone who can really communicate the truths of the faith," said Father Butler, following the Wednesday afternoon service.
"I'd like to see somebody that's going to bend a little bit as far as allowing priests to marry, possibly, something to that effect because we're getting very low on priests and I think that would be a step forward," Ronald Giebel said.
In time, those questions will be answered, likely before the end of a historic Lenten season that will be forever marked by a time of transition within the church.
"Your faith doesn't diminish because there's a transition from the Pope, your faith continues, in fact, it gets stronger," Dorothy Giebel said.
"I have a lot of faith in their [Cardinals] choice, they're there and they know,” Masucci said. “Everyone we've had so far has been what they needed to be for that period of time, so I'm looking forward to it."
Catholic Cardinals are expected to elect a new Pope within the next several weeks, likely before Easter Sunday on March 31st.