Last week,Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez appeared on a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and proclaimed, "Habemus papam." Millions of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world held their breath as he paused and then added, "Cardinale Ratzinger."
Some cheered. Others groaned. Still others were puzzled and wanted to know more. Was this 78 year old German prelate going to be an enforcer of tradition, "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," a man who follows in the footsteps of John Paul II? Time, of course, will tell, but in the days before the selection, before white smoke arose from a Vatican chimney, four priests and one parish business manager in our tri-village area put into words their hopes for a new pope.
Some shared bold visions. "I am hoping for a non-European?#34;a symbol of the world-wide church," said Rev. Kenneth Fischer, pastor of St. Luke Catholic Church, 528 Lathrop, River Forest. "We need to go back to the spirit of Vatican II and get back there quickly," said Rev. Larry McNally, pastor of Ascension Church, 815 S. East Ave. McNally was referring to the Second Vatican Council which met in the 1960s and made many progressive reforms.
Others responded with more measured words. "Remember that the church is partially an institution and partially a movement," said Rev. Thomas Dore at St. Giles, 1045 Columbian, as he reflected on Ratzinger's reputation as a strict guardian of dogma. "As such you need balance. Too much change and it's not the same church. Too much rigidity and there is no freedom for growth."
All five respondents hoped that the new pope would enlarge the role of the laity in the Roman Catholic Church. Rev. Pat Tucker, pastor of Forest Park's St. Bernardine's, put it this way: "I hope that the structures of the church moves toward more participation in oversight in the parish, diocese and church universal." McNally said, "I am all for an open-minded liberal man who will listen to the hearts of the laity. Our last Pope attracted a whole bunch of new Catholics to our church. The challenge is that we need to serve them and serve them well. The laity should have a better voice in the governing of the church."
Regarding the priesthood, Dore said he hoped the new pope would make marriage optional for priests, although he qualified his statement by saying that married priests would significantly change the experience of being in a parish. McNally went even farther: "It is my profound hope that our new pope will be open to priests getting married and ordaining women to be priests and make it happen."
Fischer said that in many ways Pope John Paul II was a progressive when it came to social issues. Dore agreed and hoped that the new pope would work hard at explaining and teaching what the long standing moral teaching of the church means. Tucker got specific, saying that he wanted the new pope to "work for world peace, address consumerism, increase concern for the poor, the unemployed and the underemployed and teach that the work people do should be understood as contributing to the care of creation."
Tucker was diplomatic in addressing the issue of married priests.
He said that he favored "widening the pool of candidates."
Finally, regarding the way the Catholic Church governs itself, Thomas Gull, the business manager at Ascension had the most to say.
"I have been fortunate," he said, "to work for two wonderful pastors at Ascension.
While their personalities differ greatly, the thing they have in common is that both let their employees do their jobs. I think the same needs to be true for the pope. I would want someone who is not a micromanager. It is hard to imagine having a person to guide over 1 billion people from so many economically and ethnically diverse cultures across the earth. As such, I think it would be important that they listen to the flock that they are to guide. In the press, I've heard about collegiality. I think that needs to include not only listening to those who are your friends or who share your same viewpoint but to be open to listening/discussing varied opinions."