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Expert Explains What's Next After Pope Resigns

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Rochester: Expert Explains What's Next After Pope Resigns
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Almost as soon as the news broke about Pope Benedict XVI, there were reports, tweets and postings about who could succeed him. Experts say all that speculation is just that... speculation.

"We've lived through the death of a pope and the election of another one. But a resignation for us is just unprecedented in modern times," explained Dr. Timothy Thibodeau, a history professor at Nazareth College. He has studied and written extensively on the Catholic Church throughout the ages.

Pope Benedict had conservative views, and led the Church through the sex abuse scandals. He was also the pope to join social media, tweeting in seven languages. Dr. Thibodeau believes later in history people will remember him as the pope who resigned.

"He set a precedent for future popes that you don't have to go until you literally die. It is now acceptable to reflect on this and say, 'I'm not capable of doing this job anymore. I'm stepping aside.'"

The College of Cardinals, made up of 118 members, will gather at the Sistine Chapel and decide in secrecy who will become the next pope.

Dr. Thibodeau says this is a chance for the church to pick someone more youthful and from a different part of the world where the church is growing, like Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

When asked if there was a short list, Dr. Thibodeau said, "On the Internet there already is, if you look at Twitter and some of the websites. And the danger with that [is] that happened eight years ago. Very few people put Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the short list eight years ago and lo and behold he was elected."

The Vatican expects there will be a new pope before Easter.

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