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Students respond to resignation

Jillian Barwick and Nicole Michels | Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Though Pope Benedict XVI’s Monday resignation heralded changes in the Roman Catholic Church, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students retained faith in its leader. Pope Benedict will officially step down Feb. 28 and the cardinals’ conclave will begin shortly afterwards.
Senior Molly Herber said her initial surprise faded to respect as she read Pope Benedict’s rationale behind his decision.
“It seems that this is the right time in his life to make this decision, and if he feels he can’t handle the responsibilities of the role – which I imagine must be thousands and all of them exhausting – then I fully respect his decision to do what he feels is best for himself and for the community,” Herber said.
Catalina Zalduendo, a Saint Mary’s sophomore currently studying in Rome, woke up to the news before most students on the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses were even awake.
“My first thought was ‘I’m going to be in Rome during the election of a new pope … I am the most fortunate person in the world,'” Zalduendo said. “I am still in shock that this is happening while I’m studying here and that I will be able to personally witness an event that will go do down in history forever.”
Junior John McKissick said he expects this decision to set a precedent suggesting future popes should seriously assess whether or not they are able to complete the duties of the office.
“It’s a decision that was off limits for a lot of popes,” McKissick said. “Just think about Pope John Paul II – he wasn’t looking too good in the year before he was about to pass, and during that time the Church especially could have used some leadership because that’s when the child abuse scandals were first coming out.”
Nikki Charter, a Saint Mary’s sophomore currently studying abroad in Rome, said she believes the Pope stepping down is a brave decision.
“We have known that his health has been deteriorating and I hope he can find comfort in the decision. The cultural and political climate is buzzing in Rome. This was a complete surprise to everyone,” Charter said. “We were talking to a few deacons and they said no one expected this.”
Senior Peter Flores said he will be sad to see Pope Benedict leave his position.
“I am sad when I think of losing Pope Benedict as the leader of the Catholic Church so far as I have grown to love him as my father,” Flores said. “It’s been really been a special thing as I learn more about his life and his works as Joseph Ratzinger and then as I know him now as the Pope and Holy Father.”
Mileva Brunson, a Saint Mary’s junior who studied abroad in Rome last spring, said attending multiple services at the Vatican with Pope Benedict – including Palm Sunday – amazed her.
“The energy of the audience was one of reverence and excitement to be in the presence of Pope Benedict,” Brunson said. “And even in his old age, he seemed to get such joy from being surrounded by the hundreds of thousands of people to join in the celebration of Palm Sunday with him.”
Junior Louann Lopez said she had been unaware that popes could resign from office.
“I suppose it’s something I had always considered to be a lifetime commitment,” Lopez said. “I still remember when Benedict was ordained, it’s odd to think we are already going to experience that process all over again such a short period of time later.”
Flores said he hopes the new pope will continue in the vein of previous popes.
“I think with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can be assured of that, but I would hope that whoever is elected pope will carry on in the spirit of the new evangelization and continue the work that Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict started,” Flores said.
Senior Gilly Stoy said he will look for the cardinals to choose Pope Benedict’s successor with the future of the Church in mind.
“The gates have opened and the politicking has begun,” Stoy said. “I’d love to see a man who is a bit more jovial, a bit more young, who could be more energetic and energizing for the Catholic youth, especially.”

Contact Jillian Barwick at jbarwi01@saintmarys.edu and Nicole Michels at nmichels@nd.edu