Campus reacts to new pope

By Kaitlin Sweeney

For University students, Pope Benedict XVI, the newly elected head of the Catholic Church, is a polarizing figure – conservatives like him, while liberals disagree with several of his key views. But many Catholics on campus and around the country hope that he’ll carry on the legacy of the late Pope John Paul II.

In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday, three of five U.S. Catholics don’t know enough about Cardinal Ratzinger – who took the name Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday – to form an opinion about him. Yet for some University students, especially Catholics, his name is well-known following the weeks of relentless media coverage that began with the death of John Paul II.

“I think anytime you have a new leader they have to carry on, at least in part, the legacy of the person before,” said Sister Anna Flanigan of the Newman Foundation, which operates Newman Hall – a University certified dorm for Catholic students – and St. John’s Chapel. “It would just be too chaotic for any organization to switch leadership and style so quickly.”

“I think he needs to follow (John Paul II’s) lead, because as others have said, he united people,” said Rachel McKee, junior in ACES, “He has to carry on some parts, especially the reaching out to other religions.”

The election of Benedict XVI has been taken to mean that talk of liberal issues, including that of women ordination, gay marriage and married priests, would cease in the Vatican. Some American Catholics who take a more liberal stance on church dogma appear disappointed with the selection of Benedict XVI.

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    “I disagree with some of the church’s teachings on homosexuality,” McKee said. “If they’re Catholic then the church has a right to say it’s wrong, but if they’re not, we can’t impose our faith on them. I hope the Pope is more accepting.”

    But for conservative Catholics, Benedict XVI’s previous statements about birth control, homosexuality and abortion echo their own beliefs. He is seen as providing support in a constantly changing world.

    “I’m glad he’s conservative,” said Jonathan Bean, senior in engineering, “It’s our Catholic faith and if we’re constantly changing it, we’re not Catholic anymore? What are we, Protestants?”

    Philip Marry, sophomore in engineering, said Catholics need to have faith in the cardinals’ decision.

    “I think that whatever he does will be guided by the Holy Spirit, so I have to have confidence in whatever stance he takes,” Marry said.

    Others are more skeptical of what the Pope will bring to the papacy and hope that he will not veer too far off the path Pope John Paul II laid.

    “I really hope that the new pope continues what the old one did,” said Jodi Hockensmith, junior in education, “John Paul II brought people together and I think there’s this idea that the new one won’t be like that.”

    What is certain is that, although many want Benedict XVI to continue in the traditions of Pope John Paul II, no one wants a carbon copy of him.

    “I hope he brings his own flavor and personality to the papacy,” Sister Anna said, “That would be silly for him to live in someone else’s shoes.”