The world witnessed history yesterday morning when Pope Benedict XVI announced his intent to resign from his post, making him the first in 600 years to do so.
“I was pretty surprised this morning,” said Mike Klausner, a junior biology and political science major who identifies as a Catholic. “I think a lot of people were.”
Benedict cited health problems as his reason for leaving the papacy at the end of the month. Some speculate his friendship with his predecessor affected his decision; Pope John Paul II died due to poor health in 2005.
“He was pretty close to John Paul the II and he watched him be totally consumed by Parkinson’s, so I’m sure he saw that and thought that this was a different way to go and a different way to do it,” said Zak Armstrong, president of the CSU student group Ram Catholic.
While Catholics and the larger global community are still reeling from the news, CSU students interviewed remained steadfast in their faith.
“I had a little renewed sense of hope today because I think with each new pope there comes a whole new breath of fresh air to the Catholic Church,” said Lizzy Zentner, a Catholic senior history major. “It really depends who we get. We could get somebody who wants to stick to tradition or we could get somebody who wants to transition into a new direction and cater to the 20-something’s who are really struggling in their faith.”
Some Catholics have noted the timing of the announcement — two days before Lent — and are contemplating the possible religious significance.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t a small part of the timing of the announcement because Lent is a time for Catholics to really focus on prayer and fasting and almsgiving,” Armstrong said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought it was a good time for Catholics to pray about this and engage in the spiritual side of the papacy.”
But the question remains: who will replace Benedict? CSU students and Catholics around the world have already begun to speculate what a new leader could mean for their community.
“We are all hoping the next pope that gets elected can relate to us and can relate to the new generation of leaders that are going to emerge in the next 10 years or so,” Zentner said. “The Catholic Church is a church of tradition and I think as much as a lot of young Catholics would like to see some things change I don’t know if now is when that will happen.”
Klausner said he thinks the church has remained the same for the last two thousand years and that whoever the new pope is will continue that legacy.
According to Armstrong, Benedict’s surprising departure could usher in another first for the Catholic Church –– a non-European pope.
“I know that people have speculated about this for a while, but the idea of the next pope coming from Latin America or Africa –– I think that would be a really good thing for the church,” Armstrong said. “European popes are nice and everything but most Catholics live in those areas of the world. There’s definitely a lot of vibrancy in the areas of the world where the church is growing so much.”
Zentner pointed to the historical significance of the newshat has affected Catholics and the world at large.
“This is a position that has been around for 2,000 years and regardless of your faith it’s huge when a new one gets elected,” he said. “It’s a very exciting thing to witness.”
Senior Reporter Kate Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.