As news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation trickled down from Vatican City early this morning, many on campus, like those across the world, were surprised.
The 85-year-old pope announced his resignation Monday morning, citing his age and infirmity to hinder his continuance as leader of the Catholic Church.
“I was in disbelief at first,” Brianna Horn, a practicing Catholic, and a senior majoring in art, said. “I was told when I was half asleep. I didn’t process it fully until a little later, and I’m still in shock.”
The resignation was unprecedented, the first papal resignation in close to
600 years, when Pope Gregory XII resigned amid a schism.
But even that is different, Kenneth Slattery, an instructor in the religious studies department who formerly served as a Catholic priest, said.
“(Pope Gregory XII) was responding to a crisis,” he said. “This pope is responding in a way that has no modern precedent. It’s very unusual. One positive is that it may make popes more open to the possibility of resigning.”
Slattery, who is currently teaching Intro to World Religions and Contemporary Christian Ethics, said previous popes, such as Pope John Paul II served until their deaths, regardless of their health conditions.
Horn said she thought it was “noble and humble” for the pope to announce his resignation.
“I’m praying that he is all right and that everything is OK,” she said. “I feel like we’re not being told everything yet. I’m waiting to hear more details on the subject before coming to any conclusions.”
But Slattery said a new pope may not necessarily mean changes in store for the Catholic Church.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “The Cardinal Electors are under 80, but all have been appointed by Benedict or John Paul II, so they have similar social agendas and outlooks on the church. But that being said, there is precedent for surprises.”
But in some ways the church will continue to evolve, he said. In December, Benedict XVI created a Twitter account and has tweeted 34 times to his more than 1.5 million followers.
“The church has been making a concerted effort to embrace new technology, and I think the new pope will as well,” Slattery said.
Slattery said his classes have been discussing the news, though many of his students were not old enough to remember anything before this pope.
“I urge everyone to pay attention to what’s going on,” Slattery said. “It’s an interesting process. It’s rare to look for a pope while we have a sitting pope.”