NH Catholics talk about the kind of Pope the church needs
The next Pope needs to be much more than a holy man, teacher and shepherd to the estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide and a better manager of the Vatican's internal bureaucracy than his predecessor, several New Hampshire Catholics said.
But Pope Benedict XVI's successor must be much more.
The new pontiff must continue to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis and - perhaps most importantly - confront what several clerics call the "godless" agenda of the primarily secular Western world that threatens to strip people of their humanity and seeks to silence the voice of religion.
"The Western world has become virtually de-Christianized and we need a new evangelization," the Rev. Benedict M. Guevin said of the church's mission to better convey the gospel message to its people.
"I think the new Pope has to get his immediate house in order as one aspect of his papacy, but also continue to promote this new evangelization, especially in the northern hemisphere and Western world," Guevin added. Guevin is a Benedictine priest and professor of theology at St. Anselm College.
The college of cardinals announced Friday they set Tuesday to open the conclave where they will meet in secrecy and prayer until they elect a new Pope. The announcement followed eight days of pre-conclave discussions since Pope Benedict XVI voluntarily retired Feb. 28.
"There is a kind of excitement building. Maybe they realize without even consulting each other that this is done. We've done our work and now it's time to do our next job, which is to elect," Guevin said.
Guevin said he expects a new Pope to be announced by the end of this week, noting no conclave lasted more than five days in the last 100 years.
"This is a really, historic moment for the church - probably unprecedented," said Msgr. Anthony R. Frontiero, who was appointed rector of St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester in 2011 after returning from a five-year assignment as Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican. He previously served as diplomatic attache for the Holy See at the United Nations.
"It will be important for the cardinals to take their time ... and carefully consider the church's position and what's at stake in this election for a new Pope, particularly given the circumstances and the climate that we find ourselves in today," Frontiero added.
The increasing influence of secularization in the Western world and a church that, to date, has not been able to effectively communicate its message or help its people integrate its teachings into their lives are key challenges facing the next Pope, Frontiero said.
"I'd like to see this as a tremendous opportunity to find ways in which we can help our people - Catholic people and the world - because the Roman Catholic Church is a voice of hope for the world," Frontiero added.
Clergy sexual abuse
While Catholics hold widely varying opinions on qualities the next Pope should have, most agree he must be committed to resolving the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
"It's paramount," Frontiero said. Benedict, he said, made "some progress in the accountability of bishops."
"That progress needs to continue and there needs to be transparency ... We can't evade these things any more. We've got to handle them directly. Accountability, especially among the bishops, is critical," he added.
Guevin added that "we need a Pope who would continue to address the clergy abuse scandal to make it clear to the bishops that ... they really try to make it a priority to protect children."
Longtime advocate of abuse victims, Carolyn Disco of Merrimack, said the only viable candidate for the post is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
"There is a zero chance for his election, but he 'gets it'," Disco said in an e-mail response. Martin admitted bishops covered up clergy sexual abuse, voluntarily released church files to government-sanctioned investigators and served in the Holy See's diplomatic corps, said Disco, who is New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful's survivor support chairman.
"My heart's desire is to see a new Pope who chooses the name John XXIV," Disco added, referring to Pope John XXIII who instituted the Second Vatican Council a half-century ago.
"I was in college when Vatican II began and shared the extraordinary reawakening of that time. I struggle to hold to the vision of an open window where accountability and transparency have substance," she added.
Marie Dancy also favors a Pope who will continue what she called John XXIII's vision.
"We need to follow through with this inspired vision," said Dancy, religious education director at St. Anne-St. Augustin Parish in Manchester.
"He opened the windows ... They weren't completely closed, but they have to be opened wide again," she added.
Within the red brick walls of the cloistered monastery of the Adorers of the Precious Blood in Manchester, religious sisters are praying for the cardinal electors.
The cloistered and contemplative order of about 25 nuns routinely prays six hours a day.
"We hope for a holy man, a humble man, an intelligent man and someone with the energy to handle the great demands of the office," Sister Mary Joseph said.
Nick Boudreau, 32, of Manchester said younger Catholics who came of age under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI "really want to feel that same personal relationship with the new Pope."
"John Paul II set the standard for future Popes to be road warriors so that young people have the opportunity to build that bond with him as the supreme shepherd of our church and Pope Benedict continued to carry that torch," explained Boudreau, a lifelong Catholic active in young adult ministry.
"The world is full of competing forces that are contrary to the will of God, so I think young people look to the Pope to break through this confusion and give us truth," he added.
Other New Hampshire Catholics also hope for a Pope who will restore vibrancy to the church.
"I think there are a lot of challenges - abortion, euthanasia, I would like (the church) to be as vibrant as it was years ago," said Valerie Flanagan of Goffstown.
Jason Comeau, 32, of Goffstown, said he would like to see a Pope who remains true to the church's teaching and is a "good leader" who will "try to confront the previous damage" caused by the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Lifelong Catholics Diane Gauthier, 71, and Susan Bedard, 70, both of Manchester, hope for a Pope who would shatter what they call the church's "good old boy mentality" and allow women priests, married priests, and address the clergy sexual abuse crisis - as well as be more inclusive of homosexuals.
"I don't think that will happen in my lifetime," said Gauthier, a licensed nursing assistant who works at Elliot Hospital.
Guevin of St. Anselm would agree, saying such positions are against Catholic teaching, which not even the Pope has the authority to change.
"Some people will say, for example, we need a Pope for the 21st century. But it's difficult to know what that means," Guevin said.