ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — After Pope Benedict the 16th announced his resignation, reaction has been universally one of shock.
Archbishop John Neinstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said he was “completely surprised and saddened” by the announcement. At the same time, many in Minnesota’s Catholic community also see the selection of a new Pope as an opportunity.
At local churches, the surprise comes with uncertainty. At the Basilica Of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis, Johan Van Parys, the director of liturgy, says it’s not clear what his church should do.
“At a Basilica, when a Pope dies, the doors are to be draped in black bunting,” said Parys. “We don’t know quite what to do so we will have to dig in historical literature to determine what a Basilica does when a Pope resigns.”
In the halls and classroom of Totino- Grace, a Catholic High school in Fridley students found it hard to believe.
“I woke up this morning and went on Facebook and it was kind of a shock,” said student Isaiah Schick.
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“I was really shocked as well. I didn’t even know that a Pope could resign. I thought he had to die,” said student Rachel Kula.
The Totino-Grace students all praised the Pontiff’s decision to step aside for the good of the church.
“I think it is really responsible of him to resign when he knows he cannot fulfill his job to the best of his responsibilities,” said student Tori Rehfuss.
The students also praised the Pope’s presence on Twitter, saying they would like to see the new Pope expand his outreach especially to young through social media.
While Pope Benedict apologized for the epidemic of Church sexual abuse scandals, scholars say the new Pope will need to do more to repair the Church’s reputation and reach a younger generation.
Don Briel, the Director of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, said, “In the United States, an increasing percentage of young people who define themselves as having no religion. What was once a more vibrantly religious culture is becoming more secularized and certainly the church has got to find ways of negotiating with that.”
Scholars say after the Pope resigns the selection process will be identical to the one that happens after a Pope’s death, and that it is likely there will be a new Pope selected in time for Holy Week and Easter.