It hasn't happened in 600 years, but the pope announced Monday he's resigning.
Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of the month because of age and declining health. Some local Catholics hope his replacement is considerably younger.
"It was shocking news," said Father Thomas Dailey, director of DeSales University's Salesian Center for Faith and Culture.
Dailey praised Benedict for his scholarship and for getting the church back to basics.
"Understanding again the fundamentals of what we believe," said Dailey. "His push for a year of faith, or his promotion of this idea of evangelization."
Allentown Diocese Bishop John Barres said the move spoke volumes about the pope's character.
"This is an act of great courage and humility," he said. "It speaks to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the person of the pope."
Benedict became pontiff in 2005 after the death of longtime Pope John Paul II. Next month, a conclave of cardinals will meet in Rome to elect a successor. But Dailey believes, hopes of a pope from our part of the world are slim.
"Numerically, the odds are against that," he said. "There will be, I believe it's 117 cardinals who are voting. There are only, if I remember correctly, 14 from all of North America."
Younger Catholics see the change as an opportunity. John Paul II focused heavily on re-energizing the youth, some of whom have fled the church.
"I felt no connection with this pope because he wasn't as young and I feel like his goal wasn't to be youth oriented," said DeSales student Katherine Kusik.
Fellow student Christopher Okula agreed.
"The next pope should be definitely a lot younger, like when Pope John Paul II was elected. He was very young as compared to Pope Benedict," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI will officially step down on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m.