HOUSTON - It’s a resignation that has shocked millions around the world, and it’s a hot topic at the University of St. Thomas where the Pope Benedict the 16Th is something a rock star.
“I wondered around my apartment for 30 minutes in a daze. It was incredible. This is the first time this has happened in hundreds of years,” David Markus, a student, said.
Markus is not alone. For young Catholics like Markus, Jennifer Benitez, and Andrea Bonilla, the pontiff’s announcement to step down has both shocked and saddened them.
“Being a part of a global church, he was one man. I feel like I had a personal friendship and personal love for him.” Bonilla said. Benitez added that the pope still plays an iconic role in their lives.
“There is a lot of questions about our faith, specifically in the media and amongst people here at St. Thomas and the Pope really helps us to know our faith and fall deeper in love with it,” Benitez said.
Pope's young following
This Pope, they say, made a special effort to connect with the devout. He has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter.
“Of course in different languages we get really excited when he tweets and you talk about it with your friends,” Bonilla said.
“He definitely did what he could to reach everybody especially the young people, because we are the church, we are the future of the church,” Benitez added.
As for the future leader of the Catholic Church, these three say the pope has set the bar.
“The next coming pope needs to follow the footsteps of Pope Benedict, reach out to us and make everything clear, by example,” Benitez said.
Catholics react to resignation
The students at St. Thomas were not the only ones in Houston caught by surprise by the pope’s resignation. Catholics in other parts of the city each had their own reaction to the announcement.
“If he is doing that, it’s for a very special reason,” Eugenia Aboytes said.
It is the first time since the Middle Ages that the leader of the world’s Catholics has decided to resign.
“I think it’s very revolutionary. I think that’s a good thing,” Theresa Evans said. “If he doesn’t think he can do the job, then he should step down, just like everybody else.”
What Catholics expect of the pontiff
Now Catholics turn their attention to the question of who will become their next pontiff.
Some Catholics hope the next pontiff will carry some of the same personal charm that Pope John Paul II did.
“I love Pope John Paul II. Someone more like him,” Evans said.
At one time it was almost unthinkable for a pope to travel around the world.
Now it’s almost unthinkable for a pope to refuse to travel a simple fact that some Catholics think may have played a role in Benedict’s decision to step down.
“It is a more demanding job. You’re expected to travel more. And he’s 85. And he’s tired. And I think that travel is very demanding,” Msgr. William Young, of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, said.
As for Aboytes, she asks only one thing of the next pontiff.
“First of all, very faithful to the teachings of the church,” Aboytes said. “Anything else, it doesn’t matter.”