Pray for a pope who is holy and wise, bishop says at special Mass
Story and photos by Rebecca Drake
SPRINGFIELD – As the world watches and waits for that first glimpse of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell had a simple message for Catholics in the Springfield Diocese: Pray.
“We ask for God’s blessing and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration for those who must make this momentous choice,” the bishop said as he began the special 12:10 Mass for the Election of a New Pope this afternoon at St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Bishop McDonnell urged the several dozen worshippers present to reflect on “what we want the Holy Father to be” and, during his homily, said that in considering the qualities of the next pope, “We pray for two things.”
The first prayer, he said, is for holiness. “Isn’t that what we call him? Your Holiness?”
“The second characteristic we pray for is wisdom,” the bishop continued. He defined the wisdom needed by the pope as “the ability to see with the eyes of faith what is going on in the world and in the church.”
Bishop McDonnell said the new pope will need “the wisdom to be the servant of God for the church and the world.”
“Pray that he will be a holy and wise shepherd of God’s church,” the bishop said in concluding his homily. “Pray for that and I’m sure God will answer our prayers.”
Before the Mass started, a scattering of worshippers had already begun praying for the selection of the next shepherd of the worldwide Catholic Church. Marilyn Stearns, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Longmeadow, told iobserve she is praying that the new pope will be “someone who will follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”
“The pope is considered the representative of Jesus on earth,” Stearns said. “I hope that he is charismatic in the way that Jesus was and is strong and very conservative to follow the teachings of the church.”
Joseph Dowd, a parishioner of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish, said he is praying for a “pope who will correct many of the problems the church has had for a number of years that need to be taken care of.” He is also praying for “somebody who will unify the church,” he told iobserve.
Speaking to iobserve after the Mass, Roseanne Caracciolo, also a member of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish, said she appreciated Bishop McDonnell’s advice and comments. “His message was simple and smart and nonjudgmental,” she said.
Asked why she thinks the papacy is so important to all Catholics, Caracciolo said, “We need a human being to help lead (the church) from earth.”
Father Bill Pomerleau, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield and an expert in church history, said that, in addition to the attention being paid by Catholics to the papal conclave, he is impressed by “the genuine interest from the world’s media.”
The extensive media coverage may be partly due to the fact that “the church’s smells and bells make good television,” Father Pomerleau told iobserve. But he also believes there is something more that is attracting the world’s attention.
“The media understand that the church still matters to a lot of people – and not just Catholics,” he said.
Father Pomerleau said that, because of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic resignation, “There is a real sense at this moment in history that there will be generational change.” He said the unusual existence of a pope emeritus “has led us to have an open discussion about what the church really needs.”
Father Pomerleau said that during the pre-conclave meetings there were signs that the cardinals may want to consider reform of the Roman Curia, for example, and they requested a report on the Vatican bank and its continuing efforts to comply with international standards to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism.
Asked for his thoughts on the selection of the next pope, Father Pomerleau said, “It’s speculation only.” He noted that even experienced Vatican reporter John Allen was off the mark in 2002 when his list of possible popes failed to include Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who, just three years became Pope Benedict XVI.
As for his own guess about the present papal election, Father Pomerleau said, “I am less confident than ever in picking a name.”
Bishop McDonnell agreed that the course of the papal election is uncertain. “We don’t know who, we don’t know when,” he said. “We hope and pray that he will be a wise and holy pope.”
Speaking to iobserve after being interviewed by several local television and radio reporters, Bishop McDonnell commented on the intense media attention to the papal conclave.
“It’s one of the last great spectacles in the world,” Bishop McDonnell said. And, he noted, “When the media speak of ‘the church,’ Guess who they’re talking about?”
But the pope is more than a news headline to Catholics, the bishop said. “He is our chief shepherd. He takes Peter’s place … and God told Peter to strengthen the brethren. And that’s what we pray that the (next) pope will do.”