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Ash Wednesday sparks conversation about Pope Benedict XVI

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CINCINNATI - Ash Wednesday was the first time some Catholics met with their church since Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign at the end of the month.

St. Francis Sephar Catholic Church on Vine street in Over-the-Rhine expected many of its church members to have questions about the pope's resignation and what it means for the church.

"I think it's good news," says Father Greg Friedman. "The number one question I am expecting people in the congregation to ask me is 'what do you think?'," he said.  Father Friedman encouraged conversation about the topic before and after mass.

Monday's announcement was the first papal resignation in almost 600 years.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. It marks the beginning of a 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting leading up to Easter.

Many people in the Catholic community it will also a time of wondering about their next leader. Much of the season will be spent under an "interim pope."

A Vatican spokesperson said a new pope should be elected by Easter after the conclave meets in Rome to make a decision.

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