Students gathered at the White Smoke Party, hosted by the Catholic Newman Community, to commemorate the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who took the name Pope Benedict XVI and became the 265th pontiff of the Catholic Church on Tuesday. In The Hive, students expressed their diverse opinions about the church’s decision.

“The new pope is strongly conservative, so a lot of liberal students are very upset,” Newman Community Co-president Sasha Bilow said. “He has very big shoes to fill, but it is good to have a new pope and to move forward.”

Benedict XVI is 78 years old, compared to John Paul II, who was 58 years old when he was chosen to be pope.

“This is obviously a transitional period in the Vatican because a pope was chosen who knows the system well, versus someone who would have some learning to do,” Director of Chaplaincy Services Father Brian Cool said. “Personally, I was shocked and somewhat disappointed. I was hoping for a Latin American pope because the church is so strong there.”

Even many students who do not fully agree with Benedict XVI’s views believe that he will do a good job.

“I think that the position makes the person more than the person making the position,” Newman Community Co-president and junior Nick Drury said.

Benedict XVI worked closely with John Paul II.

“He has the experience and the know-how to be a very successful pope,” Drury said.

Followers of the Catholic Church are excited to be part of such a monumental time of change.

“It is very exciting to see such an important time in history,” Vice President of Social Justice for the Newman Community and junior Amanda Holt said. “It was very interesting to watch the whole process and to see Benedict XVI’s first speech.”

At the White Smoke Party, students talked about how the decision will affect the image of the Catholic Church in the public.

“I hope that it can better the church’s image because right now it is not so popular,” junior Jen Muniak said.

However, some people do not think that much will change from John Paul II’s papacy to Benedict XVI’s. “John Paul II wasn’t a bad pope at all, and I think that with Benedict XVI things will be the same as they have been for the past 25 years,” freshman Allie Urbanski said.

Benedict XVI’s has strong views against gay marriage and abortion.

“He has very conservative views, but he was made pope for a reason,” Vice President of Community Development for the Newman Community and junior Kat Abejuela said. “The church would not have chosen him if he wasn’t going to do a good job, so that is very reassuring. I think it is going to be interesting to see how World Youth Day plays out.”

Urbanski knows that it will not happen soon, but hopes that someday a more liberal pope will be appointed.

“Sometime it would be great to have a pope who is was in favor of stem cell research, gay marriages and more women’s rights,” she said. “But right now I don’t think a lot will change.”

World Youth Day is a time for youth from all over the world to attend mass with the pope. “That group of people is the most liberal, so we will see what happens,” junior Kenny Thierer said.

Overall, the feeling at the White Smoke Party was one of excitement over the idea of a new pope in the Catholic community.

“I think it is a good idea for us to just wait and see what is going to happen,” Muniak said.

Paret can be reached at eparet@campustimes.org. 🙂



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