Locals react to Pope resignation


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Local Catholics and experts have expressed mixed views on how the church should move forward after Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement last week.

The resignation — which will take effect on Feb. 28 and is the first in almost 600 years — sent shockwaves throughout the Catholic community.

The pope stated in a declaration to the church that his declining health was the reason for his decision.

More than 75,000 Catholics live in the Diocese of Davenport, which includes Johnson County, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

Several professors at the UI said they thought the decision to resign was a smart move.

“It’s certainly significant and historic,” said Kristy Nabhan-Warren, a religious-studies associate professor at the UI. “But many people I’ve talked with are impressed. He’s recognizing that he’s getting frail and older. I think he’s doing the right thing.”

However, Nabhan-Warren doesn’t think the church will undergo too much change with a new pope.

“The fact that he’s willing to pass the torch, when the Roman Catholic church hierarchy was essentially shaped by him in his tenure, I’m not so sure we’ll see a radical change in leadership,” she said.

Edward Fitzpatrick, director of the Newman Catholic Student Center, 104 E. Jefferson St., said he thought the pope resigned on his own accord.

“We would’ve known about any pressure [from church scandals],” he said. “It was in a daily meeting where he announced it and it shocked everyone.”

And though the process of a pope resigning is entirely new for living Catholics, Fitzpatrick doesn’t think the resignation will be too significant.

“I don’t think this will affect things in the long run,” he said. “They’ll have to elect another pope, and we won’t have the funeral and mourning. They’ll be able to do it earlier; we might have a new pope by Easter.”

Siobhan Roddy, a Catholic student at the UI, said the pope’s decision saddened a lot of Catholics, but that everyone could understand why he chose to resign.

“He’s a very intelligent, respected man,” she said. “I pray this next chapter of his life is good, that he made a good decision for himself.”

But Raymond Mentzer, a UI religious studies professor, said he thinks some fear a former pope and a current pope might lead to a split within the catholic community.

“The fear is, a reigning pontiff and a retired one would invite factionalization within the church,” he said. “In a sense, once a pope, always a pope.”

However, Fitzpatrick doesn’t share that concern.

“[Pope Benedict] is an intellectual, prayerful man who kind of got thrown into the papacy,” he said. “I don’t think he’s going to be public, it’ll be like he went away to the monastery.”

As for what they’d like to see from a new Pope, the answers were varied.

“I want to see the pope very strong in his faith and on issues, not afraid of dialogue, but standing with precedent,” Roddy said.

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