Wednesday March 6, 2013
Malaysia's Catholic community abuzz over election of new Pope
By LIM CHIA YING
Malaysia’s Roman Catholics are eagerly awaiting the election of their new Pope.
THE Catholic world awaits as the lengthy process of choosing a new Pope continues following the ‘sudden’ resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last month.
The resignation, which the 85-year-old Benedict announced during his last mass at the Vatican on Feb 11, has taken the Catholic world by surprise, raising some speculation as to reasons behind it.
Known now as Pope Emeritus, he had headed the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics since 2005, and cited his ailing health and old age in arriving at his decision (he had slowed down considerably of late, and had to walk with a cane).
Still, his abdication was unexpected and it had been 700 years since a Pope resigned his position. In 1415, Pope Gregory XII was said to have reluctantly resigned from his papacy, and Pope Celestine V had called it quits voluntary in 1294.
Benedict’s eight-year reign was not always smooth – there were some unfortunate gaffes, priests accused of child abuse and the leaking of private papers.
Described as a quiet figure but a brilliant academic, Pope Benedict was never comfortable in the limelight or filling the shoes left by his more charismatic predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
In Benedict’s final days as pope, he delivered a prayer at St Peter’s Square and bid an emotional farewell speech. He left the Vatican to take up a temporary occupation at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo (near Rome) that will last between two and three months.
The Vatican has said this is because of renovations to a former monastery within the Vatican, where Pope Benedict will stay. It also said that his current move was done so as not to influence the outcome of the election.
His last official tweet on Feb 28 reads “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”
The Twitter account is now named ‘Sede Vacante’ (Latin for vacant seat). Pope Benedict joined Twitter last December – the first Pope to do so – and had a following of some 1.6 million people.
So as Roman Catholic cardinals gather in the Vatican to start proceedings in the election of a new Pope, we asked some Malaysian Catholics what a new Pope means to them.
Melinda Marie Ambrose, public relations manager
A new Pope means a new leader, someone of great calibre to lead the nation and to foster better ties with the rest of the communities. To me, he will be a reflection of Christ on Earth and someone whom we will look up to to lead us in Christianity.
I was definitely surprised by the (resignation) announcement, but I was more in awe that the Pope was brave enough to admit he could not go on.
He opened up to the world about his inability to be the best representative of the faith due to old age. That revelation takes a man with guts, and it’s a quality that I have true admiration for.
There won’t be any celebration per se for me, but I will offer prayers in hope that the new Pope will be a good leader in showcasing Catholicism and sharing the teachings of Christ.
The election will definitely be held before Easter, and the process is still very much in progress with the dates unknown.
Masters student Andrea Filmer, 28
The election of a new Pope is always an important event in the lives of Catholics as it marks the beginning of a new leader of the church. Popes have a lot of influence over the direction the church takes and that affects every level of the faithful.
I was surprised at the resignation, mainly because prior to this, popes held the office until their deaths. However, I’m not adverse to this new development as it will open the door to popes resigning their office when they feel they can not longer ‘lead the flock’ due to one reason or another.
As a congregation in church during mass, we often pray for our church leaders and we have prayed for both the outgoing and incoming pope during this time of transition.
Father Lawrence Andrew, Herald editor
The Pope is the chief shepherd of the Catholic Church, and he who will be elected will continue to uphold the teachings as found in the scriptures and the tradition of the church.
He will promote the Christian way of life as taught by Jesus for our world today, and with the college of Catholic Bishops of the world, will lead people to resonate the presence of God in our world today.
Pope Benedict XVI was the 265th successor of St Peter. I was surprised by his announcement – which is provided for under the Code of Canon Law – it was a break from the last 600-odd years tradition of staying in the office as Pope till death.
In fact, the former Pope John Paul II had once contemplated resigning but continued on nevertheless.
The Pope Emeritus has acknowledged that his bodily strength is getting weaker and he can no longer afford to cope with the demands of the administration and other challenges of the world.
He did the wise thing, making way for a younger person to lead the Church in our modern era. His resignation is a great act of love for the Church and the world, as well as a humble act of total reliance on God and not on his strength alone.
There are already Masses and adorations being conducted or celebrated in various Catholic churches, with the same kind of worship taking place in churches the world over.
Catholics are praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that the cardinals may be led to elect a Pope who is faithful to the teachings of Jesus.
He must be someone holy, intelligent by being able to understand the needs of the people and at the same time, lead the people in overcoming whatever troubles that may come their way. He has to become the sign of unity in the Church.
The Pope has a special aura and this will be seen amidst the pageantry of rituals on the day of his installation. As successor to St Peter, his role is to encourage the faithful to live the faith by his own Christ-filled life and also through his teaching and preaching of the word of God.
Sheila Chetty, writer
I do not feel anything much about (the new incoming Pope), but what I feel is that he should represent the voice of Catholics.
Over the past few years, there have been allegations of harassment and abuse by priests, but the Pope himself has not acted upon these incidents.
While a pope may be wise, my feeling is that they need to be able to keep up with the times and understand what is happening around them – real problems of public concern.
I was actually more shocked as to why everyone was over-reacting regarding his resignation. I understand it has not been done in centuries but shouldn’t someone be able to call it quits when he feels like it?
This is a basic human right and the Pope is human after all.
Patricia Pereira, 47, writer
When I first heard the news ,I was initially taken aback. My first reaction was ‘How can he resign?’ because as far as I could remember, the Pope always died in office.
It was only later when I contacted one of the priests that he told me it was allowed under Canon Law. I decided to read more and discovered that it is not be the first time a Pope has resigned.
Subsequently, when I read the resignation in the Pope’s own words, I felt a deep sense of love and admiration for his courage and humility in admitting that he was no longer able to shepherd the Church effectively. It was most certainly not an easy decision.
His decision was actually a sacrifice for the good of the universal Catholic Church and more than 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide.
The Pope is just no figurehead and his role is an important one. I am quite excited about the appointment of the new Pope because it is a very significant time in the life of the Church.
We are fortunate to be a part of this historical event and it’s exciting reading about possible candidates, learning about them and praying that his successor will continue to be the defender of the faith and guide the Church along the right path.
Since the new Pope will be appointed before Easter – it’s going to be a more meaningful and wonderful celebration as we celebrate both the resurrection of Christ and welcome our new shepherd.
Eileen Lean, 49, businesswoman
I think it would be good to have a new Pope. He may have a different way of leading the Catholic Church and with a new dimension and direction.
I’m actually not surprised by the resignation. Unlike any other election, we know the successor will be God’s choice and we will accept whoever it may be. It could be that God was showing the way for the former Pope and now leading someone new in.
Sometimes, churches do organise prayers or mass vigils asking its followers to pray.
Naturally, there will be those who are wondering why (Benedict) had stepped down, but I think it can be healthy to have a change of Pope from time to time.