As the speculation swirls as to why Pope Benedict XVI resigned, members of the Keene community react positively to his impact and legacy and predict what his successor will have inherited and will contend with during his own tenure.
Pope Benedict announced that he will step down as the Bishop of Rome on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Rome time according to CNN.
A Pope has not resigned since Gregory XII in 1415.
In his statement, Pope Benedict said, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Meanwhile, around the globe and in the United States, many groups and individuals question if the Pope had different reasons or pressures to step down.
In an interview with CBS, Professor Chester Gillis, a theology professor at Georgetown University, stated that the series of sexual abuse scandals that have cost the Catholic church over two billion dollars in settlements had something to do with the resignation.
In addition to the sexual abuse scandals, an Italian journalist had his own theory to explain Benedict’s departure.
According to the UK Guardian, a reporter for the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica linked the Pope’s resignation to leaked Vatican documents that allegedly expose a possible discovery of a network of homosexual prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.
However, over 4,100 miles away in Keene, N.H., the Catholic community has a much different story and opinion.
The Rev. Daniel Lamothe, pastor of the Parish of the Holy Spirit in Keene, said that Benedict is resigning for the good of the church.
He said health reasons and an old age are justifiable motives for the pope’s resignation.
Lamothe explained that those in the media and other organizations are over-analyzing the Pope’s decision to step down and also how he handled the sexual abuse scandals.
“Sometimes we tend to have a Monday morning quarterback approach [especially in America] as to why people made certain decisions. When it’s Monday morning and the game is all over we think of other ways it could have been played. But at the time it was being played, people were trying to do their best,” Lamothe said.
Rev. Lamothe went on to comment on the role of a Pope in context to the Catholic Church.
“The Pope is the primate bishop of the whole church. If the church is going to speak of anything doctrinal or moral, the Pope consults the bishops of the whole world. He is very much involved in the church’s decision making,” Lamothe added.
Others have varying opinions of what the Pope’s role is.
Junior Allie Bedell said, “In my opinion the Pope is the figurehead of the Catholic Church. In a lot of ways he is a leader but then again the role is also restricted due to doctrinal practices.”
Bedell added that the Pope is significant in regards to the church’s tradition but he doesn’t necessarily have a personal impact on her.
“Somebody’s faith is very much dependent on their own personal relationship with God and their relationship with their own church community,” Bedell added.
After Benedict XVI officially resigns, the College of Cardinals will begin the process to elect a new Pope. According to CNN, the conclave will begin after a special mass to celebrate the process.
The cardinals in the conclave draw lots to select three members to collect ballots from the infirm, three “tellers” to count the votes and three others to review the results.
Each cardinal places a folded ballot containing his choice into a chalice.
After the votes are cast, the tellers conduct a tally and whichever cardinal wins two-thirds plus one of the votes is the new pontiff. Director of the Newman Center and Campus Minister for Keene State College Cindy Cheshire has her own opinion of who the next Pope should be.
“It will be interesting to see the process of conclave. There’s a lot of encouragement from people saying that the next Pope needs to be someone from the third world either from Africa or Latin America,” Cheshire stated.
According to Cheshire, Benedict XVI’s succesor will face tough challenges.
“The next Pope will have a lot on his plate such as dealing with the issue of women’s ordination and also cleaning up after the abuse scandals,” Cheshire said.
The Vatican said a new pontiff will be in place for the Easter celebrations on March 31.
After officially resigning Pope Benedict XVI will return to being known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In addition to the Pope’s resignation, according to a recent CNN report, the Vatican confirmed Monday that Pope Benedict had accelerated the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the archbishop of Scotland.
That announcement comes a day after a Sunday report by the British newspaper, The Observer that three priests and one former priest leveled allegations against O’Brien that date back 30 years. One of those priests called their relationship inappropriate.
Matt Schwartz can be