Professors discuss Vatican changes

STEUBENVILLE – As the College of Cardinals prepare to meet Monday in Rome to set the course for selecting the next pope of the Catholic Church, professors Alan Schreck and Ron Bolster of Franciscan University of Steubenville said they hope the new pontiff will strengthen the hope of the world.

“We all need hope for our world. Who he is and where he is from is secondary for me. I am more interested in the virtues of the pope and what the world needs. The pope will not be someone who just speaks about religion. He will continue to speak about matters that impact all of the world,” Schreck said.

“There is quite a bit of sadness and excitement as the cardinals prepare to select our new pope. Benedict felt compelled to step down. He is 85 years old and weak. We take him at his word that he made the decision to resign for the good of the church. And we will see excitement at the conclave when the cardinals announce who God will raise up to be our next pope. I believe the choice will be somewhat of a surprise,” commented Schreck.

“There are many candidates who may be very qualified. Pope John XXIII was entirely different than Pope Pius XII. Pope John XXIII was a pope of the people and his election was a surprise. Pope John Paul II was a surprise because he was a non-Italian pope. God surprised us with the election of John Paul II. And Benedict was a close confidant of John Paul II. I hope the new pope will reflect holiness, life, truth and wisdom,” noted Schreck.

“People should have an opportunity to be grateful for the gift of the pope. This is an opportunity to be grateful for what our past popes have been and for praying for our next pope. There are not a lot of organizations like the Catholic Church that have endured for 2,000 years,” added Bolster.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI stepped down from his role as leader of 1.2 billion Catholics on Thursday saying he simply didn’t have the “strength of mind or body” to carry on.

He was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

“Pope Benedict is one of the most profound thinkers of our time. Future historians and scholars will be able to draw from his writings. His book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ has profound insight. And he will have a lasting impact on the Catholic Church. He is filled with wisdom and insight,” remarked Schreck.

Schreck has taught in the university’s theology department since 1978

He also specializes in Catholic Church history, Catholic Church doctrine, church renewal and the theology of the church.

“This will be my eighth pope. The Catholic Church has lasted 2,000 years with an unbroken chain of leadership. I believe that is a sign of God’s faithfulness. I believe Catholics should pray and trust in God for a new leader. We are on the verge of a new start and a new era,” said Schreck.

“His Holiness has said the pope is never a private person. He has recognized that even in retirement he will still be in the public eye. But I don’t think in any way he will try to manipulate the course of the church. The last thing on his mind is any thought of trying to interfere,” observed Schreck.

Bolster said he does not believe the next pope will be overshadowed by Benedict living in a Vatican apartment.

“It is similar to a parish when a new pastor comes in. The old pastor usually goes a great distance away. I don’t anticipate a problem once we have a new pope. He is well aware of the potential for tension. But he is also holy enough to not contribute to tensions. Benedict will be committed to prayer and holiness. He has already pledged his humbleness and obedience to the new pope. What a blessing for the new leader of the church to have someone like him available for counsel. Benedict will be a tremendous blessing. He has said whenever he may be called he will be available,” explained Bolster.

Bolster joined the Franciscan University Catechetics faculty in 2004.

As for who will be chosen as the next pope, Schreck said he never speculates on that decision.

“God has a better idea for the next pope than I do. I don’t know the cardinals. We must trust the cardinals will listen to the Holy Spirit and choose the right person. I want God’s man to be chosen as pope. My prayer is also for a pope who can promote the new evangelization. I pray for a pope who is a leader. The pope can encourage us to be a better witness for our faith. And I do pray for a pope to be elected who will galvanize and inspire us to be better Catholics,” Schreck said.

Benedict began his final day as pope meeting with the men who will select his successor and urged them to be united as they choose the 266th leader of the Catholic Church.

“May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal church, always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement,” Benedict said.

Bolster said the private conclave of cardinals should not be considered a secret meeting.

“The cardinals don’t want to diminish someone’s reputation when they discuss who will lead the church. They will be discussing who is best qualified to lead the church. But they don’t want to say something that can be construed as bad about a candidate,” said Bolster.

“They will be considering the holiness of the candidates as well as their skill sets. John Paul II was considered a communicator while Benedict was an academic. They will be selecting a leader who is the best disciple of Jesus Christ. There are many challenges facing the church. The cardinals will decide who is the best candidate to face those challenges,” explained Bolster.