Local News

Monday, Feb 11 2013 06:42 PM

Local church-goers say younger pope would benefit Catholic Church

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Five-year-old Gianna Settlemire looks for guidance from Valerie Barksdale as they attend noon Mass at St. Frances Catholic Church in Bakersfield. The dawn of new leadership of the Catholic Church is at hand after Pope Benedict XVI announced he will step down at the end of the month as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Amparo Kinnsch speaks about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Teresa Sepulveda attends noon Mass at St. Francis Church.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

The news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI caught many community members by surprise, but they are hopeful the next pope will be younger and will continue to be a strong leader of the nearly 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.

Their comments echoed those of people around the world.

Valerie Barksdale, 25, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish church who attended a Monday noon Mass, heard the news through her roommate and was caught by surprise.

"I was sad to hear about the news but I know he made his decision after giving it much thought and prayer," Barksdale said.

As the cardinals set up to choose another pope, Barksdale hopes a younger pope is considered.

"A pope that is young, healthy, bold and who protects us, would be a great asset to the Catholic Church," she said.

Rev. Armando X. Ochoa, bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, which includes Kern County, was surprised by the sudden resignation of the pope but had forseen this decision during a gathering with the pope.

"I last saw the 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI in mid-April of last year, and he indeed appeared fragile during the Ad Limina visit with our California bishops," Ochoa said in a news release.

With hope in her eyes about the future of the Catholic Church, Teresa Sepulveda, 55, was sad to hear of the pope's resignation because he was a big influence in her life.

"His prayers and beliefs were important to all Catholics but after hearing that his health was the reason he was stepping down, I knew he had made the right choice," Sepulveda said.

She added: "I hope the new pope that is elected has a similar spiritual attitude like Pope Benedict XVI but that he also brings beneficial younger ideas and positive changes for our Catholic church."

It can take a couple of weeks after Pope Benedict XVI's last day Feb. 28 to elect a new pope, explained Rev. John Burns, 88, of Christ the King Catholic Church.

"Cardinals around the world will meet in conclave and they will have to make the decision and vote," Burns said.

The priest said he was pleased to know that the pope had made his choice based on what was best for the church.

"He waited, prayed and he saw that his health was not very well and that the Catholic Church needed someone strong who could take on so much pressure and long hours of work," he said.

As the cardinals consider a new pope, Burns said it would be beneficial for them to seek someone who is familiar with the Internet and engaged with youth.

"A younger pope could stay longer in the church and would probably be aware and engaged with the revolution in the growing communication world we live in," Burns said.

But Amparo Kinnsch, 66, who attended the noon Mass at St. Francis, doesn't think age is the main focus for the cardinals.

"It is important to have a young pope who can handle all the traveling and long hours of work, but I believe it is more of the rigor of being a pope that is important," she said. "We need a leader who has good judgment and who is guided by the Holy Spirit to lead our Catholic Church."

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