Locally, some say new pope too conservative

to others, he's fine

April 20, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

TRI-STATE - Across the Tri-State area Tuesday, the selection of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the next pope was a hot topic of conversation.

News of the selection of Ratzinger, who will take the name Pope Benedict XVI, surprised few in Washington County's Catholic community.

The Rev. George Limmer, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hagerstown, said the similar ideology and close relationship between Benedict XVI and John Paul II made Ratzinger a strong candidate.


"Pope John Paul II appointed most of the cardinals personally. They were going to pick a successor like him because they were like him," Limmer said.

Limmer said stability is the best thing for a Catholic Church that has been shrouded in controversy in recent years.

"I do not think it is a good time to shake things up," he said.

Most polled in Hagerstown Tuesday afternoon said they had just heard of the selection of Benedict XVI, the first German pope in about 1,000 years.

Amanda Jackson, 24, of Hagerstown, was among several Catholics who said she trusts the decision.

"I place all my faith in the cardinals," she said.

Mary Lawrence, 57, of Hagerstown said "as with John Paul II, he just has the right set of morals" and will be "an asset to Catholics and the world."

Not everyone was as supportive.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Carol Moller said she was hoping for someone "a little bit younger" who could connect with young Catholics.

"(He is) 78? That's even worse than I thought," Moller said after being told the new pontiff's age.

Still, Moller said she believes Benedict XVI will do a fine, short-term job, though it will be difficult for him to fill the shoes of John Paul II, "a one in a million."

Hagerstown resident Barbara Spoonire, a non-Catholic whose mother and grandmother are Catholic, said she does not believe the choice will be good for growth of the Catholic faith.

"Times have changed, but the Catholic Church hasn't much," Spoonire said.

Hagerstown resident Mary Haines, 62, who is Catholic, said she believes Benedict XVI's pragmatism will lead him to allow some progressive changes.

"Times are going to force him," Haines said. "Most Americans, if they are practicing Catholics, they are disregarding what their pope is saying on issues such as using contraception."

The Rev. John Carter, of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Williamsport, said he believes Benedict XVI will and should protect the traditional teachings of the church to serve "the needs of everybody" in the church worldwide, not just American Catholics.

"The church is universal, it's not just American," said Carter, who said Tuesday that he supports and was still "digesting" the decision.

A couple of Hagerstown residents said they do not believe any choice would be able to make a significant impact in the world.

Dean Washington, a Jehovah's Witness who attended a Catholic high school in Delaware about three decades ago, said "one man can't fix the damage we've done."

Helen Malinowski said she opposes anyone taking on the role of pope because "it belongs only to the Lord, Jesus Christ."

The news was accepted with joy at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town, W.Va.

After church officials received word of the new pope, they rang the church's bells for about 15 minutes, said David Galvin, a deacon at St. James.

Galvin said he is happy about the selection because Benedict XVI "definitely has a strong understanding of truth."

Galvin said Benedict XVI's age shows the church values life, whether it is in the womb or someone who is 78.

"We all have value," Galvin said.

Vanessa Paxton, 24, of Charles Town, said she believes Benedict XVI will do a great job as long as he follows God's will. Paxton, who works in the Jefferson County Circuit Clerk's office, said following God's will is a priority to her, adding that issues such as what country a pope is from are less important.

Sarah Bryan, a Jefferson High School senior who is active in programs at St. James, said she has been following the selection process closely because John Paul II was very inspirational to her.

"I'm really excited, and I have faith in him," said Bryan, 18, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Martin Lum, 64, of Fayette-ville, Pa., who called himself a "lapsed Catholic," said the decision was predictable and "lamentable."

" ... I think the church needs some dramatic changes," he said.

Holly Cieri, 29, of Chambersburg, Pa., said that as a Protestant she is indifferent to the election of a pope but believes Catholics she knows were "hoping the conclave would elect someone who is more progressive."

Janine Reynolds, 45, a Waynesboro, Pa., psychologist who called herself a "fallen-away Catholic and practicing Protestant," said she hopes Benedict XVI will address "current issues that have made the church less viable than it used to be."

She said issues like birth control, women priests and celibacy need to be addressed.

Staff writers Dave McMillion and Richard Belisle contributed to this story.

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