Area Catholics hope for a stable, strong Church under new pope

CRYSTAL LAKE – Standing on the steps of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church after a morning Mass last week, Georgia Kostur said she wants the next pope to keep the church on the path its on.

“It’s a firm church,” said Kostur, of Crystal Lake. “It’s well-established, and it should remain stable.”

The conclave to elect the next pope will begin Tuesday, the Catholic Church announced Friday. Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in February and left the office at the end of the month.

“I would like to have somebody strong like Pope Benedict,” Ria Reckamp, another Crystal Lake resident, said as she left Mass with her husband, John.

Catholics are split nearly evenly, 51 percent to 46 percent with 3 percent undecided, on whether they think the Church should maintain traditional positions or move in a new direction, according a study conducted by the Pew Research Center just after the resignation was announced.

Among those who attend church at least once a week, 63 percent think the pope should maintain traditional positions.

The church has been bombarded by criticism over the child sex abuse scandals in the U.S. and Europe and its finances, in particular checks and balances over individual churches’ and diocese’ financial controls.

A solid 58 percent think it would be a good thing if the pope allowed priests to marry.

An additional 8 percent said it wouldn’t matter or they had no opinion.

Ria Reckamp agreed with Cardinal Francis George’s assessment that any ties to the sex abuse scandal, both intended or unintended, could disqualify someone from becoming the next pope.

The next pope should be a man of God, a people person and a good manager, said Monsignor Daniel Hermes of the Crystal Lake church.

He’s been having his parishioners pray for the pope emeritus – the title the church invented in the wake of the virtually unprecedented resignation – and his health as well as the cardinals as they go into the conclave.

Hermes was in Rome two weeks ago for Benedict’s final public appearance at the Vatican.

The square was “just mobbed with people” and “very electric,” he said.

But surrounded by that crowd and listening to Benedict address the crowd in five languages, Hermes said he realized the next pope also needs to have a very global view.

Vatican watchers have speculated that the next pope could come from Africa, where Catholicism is growing.

The Pew Research Center study found that 60 percent of Catholics surveyed thought it would be good if the next pope came from the developing world.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to come from outside Europe, Hermes said, but that he have a universal outlook and do a good job of reaching out and articulating the Church’s positions.

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