I don’t think it’s time for a pope in heels, but I do wish I had some say in who will be the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Benedict’s papacy ended Thursday. Now I’d like to see a people’s pope.
Revered by some, despised by others. Teachings say he is infallible, yet he is human and therefore has the weaknesses that brings. Loving, caring, dressed in gold, but appealing to the poorest of the poor. The job description is like no other and today, the search begins for a new pope.
Benedict XVI didn’t have the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II, but let’s face it, those were giant shoes to fill. It is also true that both Roman Catholic leaders were asked to rule the church through a challenging time from which many of us are still trying to recover.
I don’t have many regrets in my 30-plus years in journalism but one came back to me this week. It was in April 2005 and John Paul II had died. I had the opportunity to cover his funeral in Rome, but for reasons that seem so stupid now, I opted not to go. Several friends made the trip and insist to this day it was a highlight of their journalistic careers.
The farewell to Benedict has been different than what we’re used to. We watched John Paul suffer with illness until death, while this pope had the courage to say it’s time for someone new to take on the role of shepherd.
His final week as pope has seen the church struggle through more scandal, including the resignation of a cardinal. It’s fitting that those who are about to select the new leader not forget the sins and sorrow, hurt and humiliation that have only come to light in recent decades.
It is, without a doubt, time for profound change for the head of the church.
It would be nice to have a younger pope, perhaps a person in his 60s. It should be someone with humility, yet firm conviction, who can open up the Vatican — out with the old boy’s club — signalling a new direction for the church. He shouldn’t throw out all the traditions, but as much as possible, it is time for Roman Catholics to catch up with the 21st century.
I’m not saying the church must conform to society, but isn’t it time to allow traditional teachings to be interpreted in a way more in keeping with reality?
I believe God loves homosexuals as much as heterosexuals, people who divorce as much as those who are happily married, and yes, lapsed churchgoers as much as Holy Rollers.
Roman Catholic policy should reflect that. I also believe the new pope should abandon the rule on celibacy and allow priests to marry. I don’t think the church is ready for a female pope, but there may come a day when a Mother Teresa-type person can serve in that role.
Let’s put the cool in Catholic. A friend observed that it’s time to make mass and church a happy experience again. The hymns and translations of days gone by have their place, but so does joyful, uplifting music that nourishes the soul.
The same applies to homilies and ceremonies.
It is wrong that some Catholics must choose to be buried from a funeral chapel because church regulations won’t allow a certain song to be sung or a eulogy to be said during the final rite.
For the thousands of Roman Catholics in this province, active or not, this is the first day in a new chapter of the life of the church.
One of the duties of the interim leader in Rome is to destroy Benedict’s Fisherman’s Ring, a signet which shows Saint Peter as a fisherman and has the reigning pope’s name inscribed around the border.
The ring has been kissed by world leaders and thousands of worshippers. A new one will be crafted for the next pontiff.
A new ring, a new pope, a new beginning.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org