Mount Pleasant Catholic community reacts to Pope's resignation

Pope Benedict XVI will not be abandoning the Catholic Church following his resignation effective Thursday.

In his final address Sunday, Benedict told those who gathered in St. Peter’s Square he will continue to serve the church in retirement.

“This doesn’t mean abandoning the church,” the pope said Sunday,  the New York Times reported. “On the contrary, if God asks me, this is because I can continue to serve (the church) with the same dedication and the same love which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suitable to my age and to my strength.”

In light of the global impact of Benedict’s resignation, Central Michigan University finds itself affected as well.

St. Mary’s University Parish Pastoral Associate Jeremy Priest said he ultimately trusts Benedict’s discernment.

“I trust his decision, but no part of me is ready to be happy about the whole thing,” Priest said.

In remembering Benedict’s time as pope, Priest recalled his own connection with Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Philippines in a crowd of five to seven million.

“John Paul had the ability to make you feel loved in a crowd of millions,” he said. “It was a bizarre sense; it was like he knew you.”

But Benedict’s gift is not that, Priest said. It was more difficult to connect with him on an emotional level, he said.

“John Paul could communicate with his presence, whereas Benedict was a wordsmith,” Priest said. “He could communicate in paragraphs.”

Benedict provided stability and confidence to the church, he said, which was important to his personal spiritual journey.

“For peaceful hearts, continuity is important,” Priest said.

Hesitation was also present in students’ reactions to the Pope’s resignation.

Lee Szleag said although she was shocked initially, Benedict’s resignation was ultimately a good move.

“It’s something the church needs to encourage,” the Mount Pleasant senior said. “Most of the time, the Pope is being propped up like a doll at the end of his life.”

Though the new pope won’t impact Szelag’s life significantly, she’d like to see the church move into the modern world.

“I’d like to see the church take larger steps to allow women to have a larger part in the church,” Szelag said. “I would also like to see priests allowed to be married in an effort to keep the Catholic Church alive, so they can appeal to the new generation, because they aren’t doing that right now.”

Moving forward

Priest said there is a process to selecting a new Pope, though it can seem chaotic.

“From the outside, it can look like a political wrangling, but more deeply you see trust in the Holy Spirit to lead through the things that are happening,” he said.

The conclave of cardinals who elect the next Pope could begin as soon as next week, Edward Peters, a Detroit-based Vatican consultant on Roman Catholic Church law, told the Detroit Free Press Monday.

“The actual start date is still undetermined, but I think it’s going to be very early in March,” Peters said. “I’m thinking the 5th or the 8th.”

Vatican law formally requires the conclave to commence 15 to 20 days after the papal position became vacant, aiming to allow time necessary for a papal funeral. Benedict’s resignation is unique in that he is the first pope to do so in six centuries.

Some members of St. Mary’s are very interested in who the new Pope will be, Priest said, but assumptions do not usually yield true.

“If you go into the conclave as pope, you come out as a cardinal,” he said.

When considering who will lead the Catholic Church in the future, students and Priest alike had similar ideas of what the next pope should bring to the Catholic church.

“I think it would be helpful if the next pope had the ability to interact with the media more effectively,” Priest said. “The next Pope should also be deeply prayerful and discerning in what he’s doing.”

Priest said he would also like to see the new pope be as biblically engaged as Benedict was.

“Benedict was soaking and saturated in scriptures,” he said.

Breinn Higgins also said she hopes the new pope will be more progressive and appeal to younger generations.

“I think being able to connect to people is more important than just being a good speaker,” the Pinckney senior said. “You can talk all you want, but if you can't connect to your audience, they are far less likely to hear what you are trying to say.”

Higgins said a new Pope will help change the church’s image.

“My hope is that whomever is to take his place will take a stand on the (sexual) abuse issues that have taken place in the past that Benedict did not really do much of anything about,” she said.

Detroit Cardinal Edmund Szoka, 85, told the Free Press Sunday he thinks a future Pope will eventually be African or South American – but not this time.

"It's just my opinion, but I think it will be an Italian," Szoka said. "For centuries, Popes have been Italians, and John Paul II and Benedict have been the exceptions"


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