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Students hopeful about future with Benedict XVI

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

According to Notre Dame sophomore Leslie Penko, Catholics can look for positive changes from Pope Benedict XVI but should avoid comparing him to the late Pope John Paul II.”After all of the dynamic changes he made in the Church, John Paul II is definitely a hard act to follow,” Penko said. “He had a unique papacy, but I think we’re ready for something new, and I’m anxious to see what Pope Benedict XVI has to offer.”Other students echoed Penko’s enthusiasm about the cardinal’s selection.”I’m excited,” said junior Chelsea Horgan. “I think he’s going to be a really good pope. I know he was a good friend of John Paul II. Maybe he will lead with the same spirit and enthusiasm. Hopefully he will be a good pope for the masses.”Saint Mary’s freshman Meg Schmitt was upbeat about the future of the Church under Pope Benedict XVI. “I was happy with the selection,” said Schmitt. “I think he is likely to follow in the footsteps of John Paul … and be a good transitional pope.”Penko noted the new pope has already led a distinguished life. “I know he’s very prominent, especially in Germany,” she said. “He was a professor in many universities. Many people thought he was next in line for the papacy.”Many students expected that the cardinals would take longer than two days to choose a new pope.”I’m really excited about it but surprised that they picked [the pope] after two days of conclave,” said Horgan. “It was a surprise to wake up this morning and have a new pope.”Some students expressed concern about the pope’s conservative views.”They say he is more of a radically conservative Catholic,” said senior Matt Brennan. “I’ve heard he’s against some teachings of Catholic universities. I’m pessimistic but hoping to be pleasantly surprised.”Freshman Caitlin Landuyt worried the pope’s election might lend a fundamentalist tone to the Church.”It’s a step backward because he’s conservative and Pope John Paul II was a more modern pope. He brought the Church up to date,” she said.While most students noted the new pope’s politics, some also commented on his nationality.”I was surprised he is German and conservative,” said freshman Erin Rogozinski. “So much media attention was on an African pope, and it ended up being an older white man from a powerful country.”Not everyone was surprised that this election failed to bring geographic variety to the papacy. Sophomore Courtney Rayam cited stability as a possible factor in the cardinals’ choice.”I can see how they would want the pope to be from Europe,” she said.Though students showed a variety of reactions to the pope’s election, all looked hopefully to the future.”I think it’s exciting to start a new era,” said Rogozinski. “Some changes might be good.”