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Catholics in Elmwood Park, Oak Park react to news of pope’s resignation

St. Celestine Catholic Church 3020 N. 76th Court Elmwood Park/Phoby David Pollard

St. Celestine Catholic Church, 3020 N. 76th Court, in Elmwood Park/Photo by David Pollard

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Updated: March 22, 2013 6:58AM



Pope Benedict has long held conservative views that drew praise and criticism from within and without the Catholic Church.

Last week area Catholics joined those around the world who reacted to the pope’s decision to be the first Pontiff in 600 years to resign.

The news has raised some concern, but most believe the church will carry on.

Rev. Artur Sowa, assistant pastor at St. Celestine Catholic Church, said there has been a wide range of reactions from church members because something like this hasn’t happened in their lifetime. “They don’t fully understand what is happening and why,” he said.

He said now that people understand Pope Benedict is stepping down because of his health, they are more understanding.

“When you think about the Pope the title is ‘servant of all,’” he said. “The title is to serve and not be served.”

He believes when the pope realized he physically couldn’t fulfill his duties he had to make a decision.

“It was a very wise decision although it’s not an easy one to step down,” he said.

Joe Joost, 23, has been a member of St. Celestine Catholic Church, 302 N. 76th Ave., for as long as he can remember and still attends church there. He said the news is definitely surprising.

“You kind of expect someone to stay in it and not step down,” he said.

He said the move definitely breaks with tradition, but if Benedict tried his best to do his job and can’t, then stepping down is the right thing to do.

Jim Bowman, of Oak Park, was a seminarian and Jesuit priest before leaving the church in 1968 to marry and raise a family. He supports the decision, saying it “serves to de-mystify papal tenure and what goes with it.”

He lauded the Pontiff for “doing the modern thing,” and decried the historical practice of popes “hanging on no matter what, a shadow of (their) former self.”

As age continued to slow him, “he could be more and more of a figure just waving from a platform. We want more than that from a pope,” Bowman said. “It shows he’s practical and pragmatic. He saw that he couldn’t do the job, so he got out of there.”

Mary Jeans of Oak Park just wished Benedict well.

“If he finds that the stress of his position is more than he can bear, then I’m glad he can say so,” said Jeans. “He has had to deal with the (child sexual) abuse scandal for most of his time as Pope, and it seems like that would wear anyone down. I will pray for him, that he will be at peace with his decision, and that he will enjoy better health upon his retirement.”

Carrie O’Connor McGillen, who isn’t a fan of Benedict’s conservative political views, at first thought she’d misheard the news reports.

“This simply isn’t the way things are done in the Catholic hierarchy,” she said. “I’m sad and a bit ashamed to admit that my next reaction was suspicion. Does a resigned Pope (as opposed to a deceased one) have the ability to name a successor? If so, don’t we all but guarantee that next successor will be ultra-conservative?”

“In my more hopeful moments I imagine a positive future where the Church moves forward, not backward, on age-old issues like oppression and poverty, as well as more current issues like the role of sexuality within marriage and women’s role in leadership positions.”

McGillen recently ordered something she can remember Pope Benedict by.

It’s “this handy little gadget called the Benedict ‘Popener,” she said, explaining it’s a beer bottle opener with the pope’s likeness on it.

“This consoles me to know that although Pope Benedict was never able to open the doors to a new era for the Church, he will always be there to open my beers.”



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