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New pope leads changing Catholic Church

Courtesy of MCT

The Roman Catholic Church made waves with its selection of the first non-European pope in the modern era, and with Easter around the corner, some at Ohio State are interested to see how Pope Francis will lead the faith into the future.
“I’m pretty excited. Easter is always a big time for Catholics, and now with the new pope there’s been a lot of enthusiasm towards the faith,” said Daniel Deleandro, a Catholic and third-year in exercise science education. “I really think it’s good that he comes from Latin America because he can speak their language and he can understand different people’s needs.”
Pope Francis began his new role as the leader of the Catholic Church on Tuesday. David Brakke, an OSU history professor, said the selection of a non-European pope is crucial to the growth of the Catholic Church because the center of Catholicism is no longer in Europe.
“I think the cardinals were eager to show that they understand now that most Catholics don’t live in Europe,” Brakke said. “(The) majority of Catholics now live in Latin America, Africa and Asia. They understand that the center of the Church is not in Europe. There really isn’t a center anymore, it’s truly a global religion.”
Many people in traditional Catholic countries like Spain, Ireland and Italy are no longer going to church or being baptized. This is because the process of secularism has been occurring for more than 100 years in Europe, Brakke said.
“People that live in a secular society feel tied together by values like freedom, individual conscience and human rights, rather than being tied together by a specific religion,” Brakke said.
Brakke said some Catholics are leaving the Catholic Church in the United States, but Catholicism is not losing ground in the U.S. because immigrants from Catholic nations are keeping the religion prominent. The Catholic Church is still growing in other areas of the world like Asia and Africa. In Latin America there are numerous Catholics leaving the religion for other forms of Christianity because they are looking for more spiritual involvement.
“There is definitely a sense that people in Latin America are becoming more interested in forms of Christianity that have a charismatic and emotional appeal with more hymn singing, healing and experiences with the spirit,” Brakke said. “I think the pope will try and integrate that spirituality back into the church.”
Abby Krammer, a Catholic and third-year in middle childhood education, said Francis’ adjustment to being pope will add to the excitement of Easter.
“It brings me a lot of joy in the Easter season,” Krammer said. “There is a lot of joy in the church all the time because of Jesus’ resurrection, but I think the new pope will also bring new life and happiness to the church.”
In addition to the shift of Catholicism from Europe to a worldwide faith, the cardinals chose Francis to focus on two major problems within the Catholic Church, Brakke said.
“I think in this situation it was a wise move because the church really needs the new pope to fix two major challenges,” Brakke said. “The remaining problems with the sex abuse scandal must be fixed, so this pope really needs to take charge of that. The second is that the bureaucracy in the Vatican, which is called the ‘Curia,’ really needs to be reformed. There are hints of scandal and financial mismanagement … I think there was a real need to bring in an outsider from another place and to not be heavily involved in the bureaucracy to kind of clean up the place.”
The Catholic Church has faced issues with sexual misconduct over the years that has tarnished the reputation of the Church.
Theresa Gilmore, a Catholic and second-year in public health, said she is looking forward to seeing what Francis will focus on during his reign.
“I think it’s going to be really good to see from a new perspective and have some new ideas come in,” she said.
While Francis is considered a conservative in his theology, Brakke thinks Francis will show special emphasis on giving to the poor and will try to bring back other types of spirituality to the Catholic Church.
“I think given what he’s done so far, he’s not going to change on issues of birth control, gay marriage, abortion and all that,” Brakke said. “I do think he is putting a greater emphasis on simplicity. What you might see from the pope is less talk about issues of gender and sexuality, which turn off people, but more talk about spirituality, caring about people’s souls, worrying about the poor and doing the kinds of acts and services that Christians should do.”

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