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WNY Catholics reflect on end of Benedict's papacy, look ahead

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Roman Catholics witnessed a historic day as Pope Benedict resigned his papacy at the Vatican Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI is retiring after leading the Catholic church the last eight years. His successor has not yet been named. Shouts of "long live the Pope" rang out at the Vatican upon his departure.

WBFO's Eileen Buckley gathered reaction to the papal vacancy from some prominent local Catholics.

In Western New York, Father Leon Biernat, pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in Lancaster, called it a "beautiful day" as Catholics celebrate Benedict's leadership.

"We are touched by his humility to be able to be courageous enough to say 'It's time for me to retire.' I think it's a great humble act. I think it's a great time of excitement for the Church," Father Biernat told WBFO News.

Father Biernat says he is not concerned about the age of the next Holy Father or what country he is from and is looking forward to new church leadership.

Msgr. Bill Gallagher, a retired priest, says the selection process of the next Holy Father comes as the Catholic Church remains under tough scrutiny for ongoing sexual abuse scandals.

"It certainly will exclude any Cardinal whose hands are dirty. As we've already seen, a couple have decided not to show up because of difficulties in their own life," said Msgr. Gallagher. "I think they'll be very careful to pick someone that is absolutely blameless."

Msgr. Gallagher says he is certain a new pope will be selected by Holy Week, which begins March 24.