Pope Benedict XVI officially stepped down from his post as head of the church Thursday, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so.
Though the announcement shocked many Catholic students, they praised the pope for having the courage and humility to recognize that he could no longer be an effective leader of the church.
“I think he made the right judgment call to say ‘I’m supposed to be a servant of the church, I’m supposed to be a leader of the church and find God’s will and I can’t do it right now,’” said Edwin Juarez Rosales, a second-year doctorate student in electrical engineering who was raised Catholic. “It’s better for him to be humble enough to say ‘Let me go and rest.’”
Sergio Avelar, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said he was unsure whether the pope stepped down for health reasons or because of the recent problems plaguing the church involving the child abuse scandals. He agreed that the Pope’s decision, however, was a noble act.
“It was very surprising since it hasn’t been done in 600 years,” Avelar said. “It’s a very humbling thing to say that someone else is more capable. It’s a very good example to set.”
Zoe Roth, a senior majoring in narrative studies, also said she was glad the pope felt like he could make the decision to resign.
“I’m glad he’s resigning if he does not feel like he is good enough health to perform his duties,” Roth said. “In this day and age, he’s under a lot of scrutiny, and it’s important that he can do his job well.”
Since the announcement of the pope’s resignation, the selection process for his successor has been under way. Some students welcome the possibility of the Cardinals electing a non-European pope for the first time.
“I really like how they’re opening it up now,” Avelar said. “I would prefer someone outside of Europe, just to see what they can bring to the table. Based on their experience outside of Europe, whether it’s from Africa or from here, they can bring a more global perspective.”
Juarez said that election of a pope from an area where Catholicism is still growing, such as Latin America, would be beneficial for the church.
“The Catholic Church is a very large institution and, even though it is relatively uniform because of the structure of the church, we have different ways of how we live our religion in our daily lives,” Juarez said. “[The election of a Latin American Pope] will show a willingness of the Church to embrace who we are, which is a people of all nations.”
Even with the speculation around the search for a new pope, Roth noted that the upcoming change in pontiff, will not significantly impact on her day-to-day life.
“My religious experience has mostly been related to the church I go to and the community around that,” Roth said. “I don’t really think about what the pope is doing each day. He’s important, but my church and the community I grew up in are more important to me.”
Both Juarez and Alevar said that, going forward, the greatest challenge the church would face would be to remain true to their message in the face of a constantly changing world.
“The greatest challenge is going to be how to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ while adapting to whatever the world throws at us,” Juarez said.