SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
By Ann Butler
Herald Staff Writer
As the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics wait to see who will be their next pope, a lot of questions are being asked. Should the cardinals go back to electing a pope from Italy after the Polish John Paul II and the German Benedict XVI? Maybe someone from Latin America, which comprises more than 40 percent of the Catholics in the world, should be the next pontiff? Perhaps a cardinal from Africa, the fastest-growing region of the church, ought to be a contender? Should he be a theologian or a man of the people? Progressive or conservative?
Pundits are picking their most likely candidates, and Vatican watchers all have an opinion, with many wondering if the next pope will be a non-European for the first time in 1,500 years. But local Catholics seem pretty calm about who will follow Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down last week.
What would they like to see in the next pontiff?
“Someone who is able to realize how important everybody is in the church, not just laity, clergy, or the hierarchy, recognizing we’re all the true church,” said the Rev. Jim Koenigsfeld of St. Columba Catholic Church. “And to get some of the scandal things behind us and move on with the growth and holiness we’re all called to be.”
His counterpart at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the Rev. Joseph “Larry” Gallegos, also would like to see the sexual-abuse scandals that have come to light over the last decade addressed.
“I just want someone who’s fixing the mistakes we’ve made,” he said, “correcting whatever abuses have occurred. I hope he’ll continue reaching out to others and being ecumenical.”
Many had no opinion on what kind of person or leader they’d like to see, trusting that the College of Cardinals, which probably will gather to elect a new pope within the next few days, will select the right leader for the times.
“That’s a core belief of the church,” said St. Columba Catholic School Principal Kevin Chick, who came to the faith as an adult 10 years ago. “We believe the cardinals will truly be discerning the will of God. We trust the Holy Spirit will work among the cardinals to choose the successor to Peter, the first pope. But I do hope there will be a focus on youth and faith formation.”
Selina Gallero, who is active at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, had to stop and think about what she would like to see.
“I pray for a pope who continues to look forward,” she said, “one who reaches out to everyone, and one who realizes that he still has a lot to learn. One who inspires each of us to have a greater understanding of the love and mercy of God. My vision is clearly to have a pope for the people of God regardless of his nationality.”
People of all ages join Koenigsfeld in wanting things to settle down a bit after the turmoil over the last decade.
“I hope it’s someone who really cares about the church and wants it to go in the right direction,” said Daniel Sandner, an eighth-grader at St. Columba School, who is the son of Steve and Martha Sandner. “Someone who keeps those old traditions alive by letting them live on.”
Daniel doesn’t know anything about the cardinals who might be elected to oversee the Holy See and says the most important thing to him isn’t the selection process but the result.
“I like the way we praise God now, and I hope it continues through the new pope,” he said.
Gallegos, though, hopes the new pope will look toward the future, too.
“I hope it’s someone who has a vision for the future because the times are changing,” he said.
It’s not just in conclave that Catholics try to follow the will of the Holy Spirit, Chick said.
“It’s our entire decision-making process, even with groups like the school advisory council,” Chick said. “We come feeling fortunate to be called, we bring our intellect, bring our views and feel we are truly there to discern what the Holy Spirit wants us to do.”