What can a new Pope mean for youth today?

How will younger generations respond to having a new Pope in the Vatican?

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How will younger generations respond to having a new Pope in the Vatican?

Crier Editorial

Tomorrow, Feb. 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will resign the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. This will mark the first time in over 600 years that a Pope has resigned his post, and the first time in history one has done so for health reasons. The question on all our minds now is this: who will the next Pope be? But that shouldn’t be the only question we’re asking.

For college students like us, another big question is this: what will the new Pope mean for us, the youth? What can we hope for, what do we need, from a new pontiff, especially considering the state of the world and the Church today?

One basic hope is for a Pope who returns to the ways of John Paul II. He didn’t have the nickname “The Peoples’ Pope” for nothing. John Paul was well known throughout his Papacy (1978-2005) for his ability to empathize and reach out to various groups inside and outside the Church, especially the youth and young adult populations. He began the World Youth Day tradition, and remains to this day a revered and respected figure for the Church and its members.

Similarly, a Pope with a less academic and more rhetorical persona would certainly aid the Church in its teaching and outreach efforts. The simple fact of the matter is Pope Benedict XVI, while brilliant and insightful, could often appear terse and academic in his homilies and other public appearances.

Such a seemingly dry, academic approach to the faithful from a central public figure of the Church has the unfortunate potential to alienate members of the faith and outside observers alike, without even intending such a result.

In a world filled with snap judgments and sound bites, it is crucial for the leader of the Church to both understand these circumstances and be able to keep them from being detrimental to his message, even if they cannot always be used to his advantage.

To take things a step further, the new Pope must not only acknowledge the youth of the Church, but listen carefully to their voices. We are in an age of unprecedented change the world over: technology, media, methodology, and many other aspects of the world we live in are shifting exponentially.

As the generation on the very forefront of these changes, we are in the unique position of being able to understand and utilize them best, whether that utilization be for the Church or otherwise.

Connected to this is the absolute necessity for the new Pope to be willing to “clean house,” so to speak. The sex-abuse crisis in the Church is far from over. This is a reality particularly evidenced by the resignation this week of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the highest-ranking Catholic leader in Britain, after allegations of sexual misconduct. The Church has long been criticized for its handling of abuses, and this latest incident is no exception.

Why does this matter to us, the youth? Because in five or 10 years, many of us will be parents, and as such, may desire to bring our children up in the faith that we love.

Yet, the largest stumbling block to doing so lies in the scandal of sexual abuse in the Church, which is confronted by one case after another, most of which originate in the 1960s – 1980s, but which erupt steadily into public consciousness. If we feel we cannot trust the Church’s authority figures to keep children safe, in what fantasyland would we hand over our children to their care?

The new pontiff should make an immediate commitment to continuing and strengthening the efforts that have been set in motion not only to assert the Church’s authority over morals, but to live with moral authority.

Even for faithful Catholic young adults, it can be challenging to face the onslaught of at best mixed and at worst negative media and opinions related to the Church. Certainly, we have a responsibility to seek out the truth, but in turn, the Pope and the Church must make every effort to both preach and live up to the spirit of that truth.