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ND monitors Pontiff’s condition

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, March 2, 2005

As Pope John Paul II recovers from emergency surgery in a hospital in Rome, the world is wondering how much longer his 27-year papacy will last. At Notre Dame, priests have expressed concern for the pope and a reassuring faith that God will provide.Father Paul Doyle, rector of Dillon Hall, admitted that the pope’s situation is complicated, and that both sides – those that believe the 84-year-old pontiff should step down, and those convinced he should serve until his death – are legitimate.In a nation where the elderly are often separated from society in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Doyle noted the importance of allowing an aged pope to continue in his position and remain leader of the Church.”When someone like the pope is allowed to remain at center stage for so long, it is a commentary on how quickly the rest of us shun the elderly to the margins,” Doyle said.Still, he noted, if age creates a severe hindrance on the pope’s ability to fulfill his role, then resignation should be considered. “I tend to think it might be good at some point for a pope to become emeritus, so to speak, so someone more vigorous health-wise can lead the flock,” Doyle said.However, Father Steele, director of Theology on Tap, said he has great faith in the pontiff, who has managed to defy predictions of impending death for many years. “It seems people have been predicting his demise for years and years. I heard the pope wasn’t going to live through the year back in the 80s,” Steele said. “I don’t think we can assume he will step down.”And, in Steele’s opinion, the pope has no intention of doing so. In fact, Steele believes, the pope will steadfastly carry on demonstrating the power of faith and the need for respect for life at all ages.”I think he is making a faith statement as far as that God will provide,” Steele said. “Perhaps he is making a statement about the dignity of life in the midst of suffering in a particular time when euthanasia is being discussed and made legal in the U.S. and Europe.”If history is any indication, the pope will likely not resign. Celestine V was the last pope to resign, and that was in 1294. Father Robert Dowd, professor of political science, is also convinced that the pope will remain in his position, god willing.”I would say that I think the pope will remain as pope until his death. I don’t think he intends on resigning,” Dowd said.Steele praised the pope for the stability he brought to a Church that was emerging from great changes after Vatican II.”There was a sense [in the Church] that anything could happen. The church had changed enormously and there was a presumption that that might continue. But instead he has brought us back to the basics,” Steele said. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of the few people allowed to see the pope while he has been hospitalized, announced Monday that the pope has started speaking again and has resumed making decisions regarding the Church, though he still remains hospitalized.Mmalone3@nd.edu