Okotoks Catholic priest hoping for African pope
Religion: New head of the Catholic church will be named at the end of the month
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013 11:53 am
Last week local Catholics gathered for Ash Wednesday to begin Lent, a season of penance and humility, however, some attention is being diverted by the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
On Feb. 11 Pope Benedict XVI announced he was resigning at the end of the month. Masses of people have been gathering at the Vatican to hear his last addresses. Cardinals will gather at the Vatican sometime in March to elect a new pope.
The resignation of the pope is history in the making, with only three previous pope’s stepping down. The last time a pope resigned his post was 700 years ago in 1415.
Father Jaroslaw Dziuba is the parish priest for St. James Catholic Church in Okotoks and St. Michael’s Church in Black Diamond. Dziuba said choosing a new pope is an important milestone.
“He is the supreme shepherd,” he said. “He oversees the whole church.”
He said although it is rare for a pope to step down, it is not a cause for concern.
“He had the right to do this,” Dziuba said. “He didn’t do anything offensive. It’s not against theology. Really it’s his conscience. He said he prayed about it.”
Dziuba said he believes Pope Benedict XVI is close to the end of his life and is entitled to spend his last days at the Vatican or at his private residence praying and resting.
“I don’t think he is long with us,” Dziuba said.
Although the choosing of a new pope is a major event for the Catholic Church, Dziuba said the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI will not be as significant an event as the death of Pope John Paul II, who was head of the church for 27 years.
“He was kind of living in the shadow of John Paul II,” Dziuba said of Pope Benedict XVI. “It won’t be as emotional. There won’t be a mourning period.”
People are talking about the pope’s unexpected resignation and Dziuba said he may briefly bring it up in a sermon.
“I will ask people to pray for a wise selection and to pray for this man, who needs rest,” he said.
Although he had a relatively short eight-year papacy Pope Benedict XVI did leave a legacy during his tenure, Dziuba said.
“He tried to reform certain things,” he said. “He opened the door to Anglicans trying to come back to the Catholic Church. These are things the next pope will have to continue.”
There is speculation the next pope could be Canadian and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Montreal’s archbishop emeritus, is one of the leading candidates.
However, Dziuba said he is hoping for an African pope.
“I would like to see somebody from Africa, there are cardinals from Nigeria,” he said. “The have struggled for freedom and it is a neglected continent. It might be good for them.”
The leading contenders from Africa include Cardinals Francis Arinze of Nigeria and Peter Turkson of Ghana.
The Catholic Church has not had a non-European pope in the modern era. However, the majority of Catholics are now living in Africa, Asia and Latin America meaning Catholics may be willing to support a pope from somewhere other than Europe.
According to church rules, the conclave, where the 117 cardinals elect the next pope, could begin on March 15, but a Vatican spokesman said it may start even earlier in hopes of finishing the process by Palm Sunday on March 24.