University students discuss possibilities for new pope

by Elizabeth Cook

The process of selecting a new pope will begin April 18, and University students have high expectations for Pope John Paul II’s successor.

Cardinals from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds are up for the title. Of the 117 possibilities, there is Cardinal Francis Arinze, of Nigeria; Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina; Cardinal Ivan Dias, of India; and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, of Italy, to name a few.

Sylvia Gonzalez and Elizabeth Skar, La Raza Student Cultural Center members and University students, said they would be proud if the next pope were Hispanic. But they said that shouldn’t be the reason a pope is elected.

“There are a lot more issues the Catholic Church should look into instead of surface issues such as ethnicity,” Gonzalez said.

Nicholas Yu, a third-year student and Asian-American Student Union member, said that if the next pope is Asian, it would bring a lot of pride to Asians. But Yu also said race should not be the reason a pope is elected.

“A lot of Asians will be quite proud they can relate with someone within the church who is a central figure,” Yu said. “(The next pope) needs to have good ideas.”

Mohit Dargan, an Indian Student Association member, said having a pope from India would bring to the world more knowledge of the country’s culture and churches.

“There are many churches, and people haven’t heard of them,” Dargan said. “These places will come into focus of the general world.”

Jerold Wells Jr., a University student and Black Student Newsletter co-editor, said having an African pope would be a great accomplishment.

“Racism and prejudice are real issues. For something like that to happen would be very groundbreaking,” he said. “For those that aren’t Catholic, it would be like having the first black president.”

Sara Braga, a teaching specialist in the Italian department, said that if the next pope is not Italian, it wouldn’t make a significant difference, because that tradition was broken when the Polish John Paul II became pope. She also said she recognized the importance of a pope being able to speak Italian, even if he isn’t Italian.

“If he will speak Italian, people will like him better,” she said.

When asked about the possibility of the next pope being African, Hispanic or Asian, Father Michael Martin, of the St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center, said it is very exciting the global church is looking like more of the world.

“Jesus said, ‘Go and teach all nations,’ ” Martin said. “It’s really only been in Pope John Paul (II) that gospel has been in all nations.”

Oliver Nicholson, a classical and Near Eastern studies professor, agreed that cardinals will not be looking at race when choosing the next pope.

“They’re going to be looking for someone whose total experience of life is such that they can do the work of the Holy Spirit better than someone else,” Nicholson said. “Cardinals will be looking for a man who can represent on the world’s stage the mind of Christ to our generation.”