Coppell Catholics reflect on the role of Pope


By Erica Rohde
Staff Writer

popeCatholics around the world woke up on Feb. 11 checking news websites and newspapers. Those who the news did not reach heard about it second hand. There was no difference in the shock that was produced; 1.2 billion Catholics were confused worldwide. As of Feb. 28, the chair of St. Peter was to be vacant by free will rather than death.

No one has stepped down from the Papacy in the last 600 years. The last pope to do this was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and before that Pope Celestine V in 1294, so the Catholic population did not see this coming.

“When I heard the news, I did not even know it was possible for the pope to do that,” Coppell St. Ann Parish Youth Minister Naomi Lehew said. “We really are living through historic times for the Catholic Church.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s address was a lot to process and is still being processed in minds of Catholic and non-Catholics alike. When hearing for the very first time of the announcement, Coppell St. Ann Parish Youth Minister Joey Scancella thought that the pope’s decision to abdicate his title was the result of a prank.

“I honestly thought it was a joke when I first read it,” Scancella said. “I thought someone hacked into the Vatican twitter or something. In my opinion, he is an amazing leader and he has done many things in leading us. So I seriously thought this was just a joke.”

It became real in both inquisitive minds and emotional hearts. A mixture of uncertainty, hope and trust permeated through the church.  Since the announcement, the question comes up about how many people actually know about the significance of the Pope and why he is of such high importance for Catholics.

“Many of us as Catholics have a great affection for the pope, as one name for him is the Holy Father, and in many ways we believe him to be our spiritual father, leading us, guiding us, encouraging us, challenging us, calling us all to live lives more filled with love for Christ,” Lehew said.

The Papacy is a large role. Scancella claims there are many misunderstandings about the Papacy and how each pope takes his responsibilities.

“I hear a lot of people say he is a rich guy who walks around the Vatican and bosses everyone around instead of understanding his responsibility in how he guides us with the church,” Scancella said. “He guides us through his own prayer, and through his letters, through his messages, all that he does in those regards.”

Each pope has the ability to focus the church in different areas, but it is impossible that a pope will be elected who will change the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. That which the church teaches in faith and morals remains unchanged.

Coppell High School Senior clarifies the difference between the roles of the Pope and Christ within the church.

“We do not worship the pope,” Ruedi said.  “He is not Christ on earth, but he is a shepherd for his people. With such a big flock it would be madness without a shepherd.”

With a large flock to keep, the Pope has to make sure to communicate effectively with the people.

“On one hand there is an influence that a pope has when he speaks publicly, what he writes, the topic he is passionate about, all of these things can influence the direction of the church and how we grow in our faith,” Lehew said.

Lehew thinks that Pope Benedict XVI left his unique mark as each pope does. Who they call “Papa” is well loved in that he showed great love, inspiration and encouraged those of the church to always pursue a life devoted to Christ.

“He is just a brilliant mind,” Scancella said. “For me what he brought was being able to articulate faith and reason. He was such a great scholar and he did an amazing job for those who needed more faith and for those who doubted he gave reasonable answers.”

Some of the focal points of Benedict XVI’s papacy were on the Eucharist, the Bible, Catholic social teaching and the responsibility of the church to care for the poor and most vulnerable in our society.

“When Benedict was named pope, people expected him to be kind of a strict, intense, pope,” Lehew said. “He had nicknames like God’s Rottweiler. But his first letter to the world as pope was titled ‘God is Love.’ I think that showed truly the heart of a man who was not just this strict German, but was truly a loving, humble, shepherd.”

Now that the decision has been made and that there is currently no pope, all there is to do is wait for the papal conclave to produce a new pope who will lead the Church as a faithful successor of Peter.

As of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s choice in abdicating his title, he will now be taking a different role within the church.

“The biggest question I get from people is about what he is going to do now,” Scancella said. “I feel that in my heart he is a man of prayer and sacrifice that I see him going to spend his life in sacrifice and fasting for the Church, even though he is no longer Pope Benedict XVI to us, I believe he will still spend his time shepherding the Catholic people.”