Last week, the world was met with the shocking news that Pope Benedict XVI would be resigning from his papal position. This controversial announcement has over 1 billion Roman Catholics shocked throughout the world. He is the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign and his resignation impacts all people and institutions of the Catholic faith, including Saint Peter’s University and its Catholic students.
Pope Benedict XVI cites his old age and declining health as the reasons for resigning. The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and sets the dogmatic doctrines for the faith for over one-seventh of the global population, which can be a difficult task for an 85-year-old man. However, many people believe that, despite his health, he should hold the position until death, like the many other popes before him.
“At first I was really stunned,” said Father Rocco Danzi, S.J. Director of Ministry. “He’s the corporate head of a very, very big global institution, that being the Roman Catholic Church.”
“He was a little conservative for me,” said Matthew Feeney, a sophomore at
Saint Peter’s University and a practic- ing Roman Catholic. “But I thought he was a good pope, a brilliant theologian. He’s a faithful man. If you’re a pope, you did something right.
Giselle Agard, a sophomore at Saint Peter’s University and a practicing Protestant, found that his resignation was bold and noble.
During his papal career, Pope Benedict XVI has suffered many scandals, including his lack of response to the series of cases where children were abused by priests, and has often been criticized for being overly traditional and regressive. He has also been critically judged for his association with the Hitler Youth, a paramilitary division of the Nazi party for boys ages 10 - 18, during his teenage years. His public perception stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who was beloved by many Roman Catholics.
Elizabeth Callahan, a junior at Saint Peter’s University, was upset and suspi- cious about the fact that Pope Benedict XVI did not do more about the child abuse by priests scandals. “The fact that he didn’t do more about that is a big problem for me.”
His resignation has also inspired several conspiracy theories, with some accusing him of hiding something.
“There are three possibilities,” said Ryan Marotta, a senior at Saint Peter’s University and a practicing Roman Catholic. “That either he is truly resign- ing for health reasons and that he just wants the Church to be in good hands. The other possibility is that there is some sort of scandal that we don’t know about and that he is doing this to avoid any kind of suspicion. And the other possibility is that his health his declining, but that he may want to have some sort of influence to his successor.”
With the position now open, people of the Catholic faith are wondering what kind of pope will fill in the position and whether he will continue the regressive trends of Pope Benedict XVI or the more liberal policies of Pope John Paul II.
Erich “Doc” Sekel of Campus Ministry for Community Service, hopes that the new pope brings inclusivity and an “open dialogue” about controversial issues that the Vatican has been rigid about, such as ordaining women as priests and gay marriage.