Pope Benedict XVI will have a lasting contribution to his church.
What that is yet is only for history to judge, say area priests.
Resigning the papacy might be the most notable precedent set during his tenure.
"He took the job out of love for the church," said the Rev. Paul Fontanella, of St. Ann Roman Catholic Church in Loyalsock Township. "It's the same love for the church, I think, that motivates him now to make sure she's in the best possible hands. I think we'll look back on that with gratitude."
"This historic decision will undoubtedly be remembered as Pope Benedict XVI's last great service to the Church," the Rev. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, of the Diocese of Scranton, said Monday.
Beyond his resignation, area priests said that Benedict likely will be remembered for his writings and his teaching, even if he is overshadowed somewhat by his predecessor John Paul II's lengthy reign.
"In a great many ways he saw himself continuing the legacy of John Paul II," said the Rev. Bert Kozen, of Immaculate Conception and St. Luke's churches. "He will be viewed as a good pope in his own right, with what he brought, especially with his writing. He was very prolific both before and after his election."
"I think he will be remembered as a very pastoral pope," said the Rev. Glenn McCreary, of Church of the Resurrection in Muncy. "His writings and his talks have been extremely accessible - this is a man who wrote books while he was pope that were not meant for the theologician, the intellectual. They were meant for ordinary people to read."
"John Paul (II) was a teacher of teachers - someone always needed to explain to me what he was trying to say," Fontanella said. "Benedict is a teacher of students. He was very eager to try and present the teaching of the Church to the modern world in away we can understand even when it challenged us."
Whether Benedict's reign was a "conservative" one, as media have often reported, is more an issue of semantics than what he actually taught.
"He was very traditional and very centered on church teaching and doctrine," Kozen said. "What he wrote is certainly in standing with what the church teaches and what it believes in."
"It's hard for anyone to put him in a box. He has bothered both the left and the right," Fontanella said. "I think that's a good place for any churchman or woman to be, because in the end he saw himself as a servant of the truth, which neither the right nor the left lays total claim to."