The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 11, 2013

Area Catholics react to papal resignation


OTTUMWA — Reactions at Seton Catholic School

Reactions to Pope Benedict’s resignation weren’t quite what you might expect at Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa.

Students were told about the announcement following the morning’s prayer service. Principal Julie Gentz said a few had caught the news earlier, one even knew it had been about 600 years since the last papal resignation, but for most it was the first they heard about the start of a process that will elect a new pope.

“We felt like this would be a really good teachable moment,” Gentz said.

So the discussion focused largely on the process, the conclave that will select Benedict’s successor.

Of course, the concerns of schoolchildren aren’t always the same as adults. The fact the College of Cardinals is kept apart from the public caused some concern.

“You mean they lock them in there!?” was one reaction, said Gentz.

It doesn’t work quite like that, she explained. It’s in the Sistine Chapel and, yes, the cardinals are allowed food, though they are sequestered within the Vatican.

There are currently 118 cardinals under age 80, thus eligible to vote at the conclave. But with four reaching that age before the end of March, the number could change before a new pope is elected. In fact, it’s possible it could change during the conclave.

Four votes are held each day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. A two-thirds majority is needed to elect a new pope.

Gentz said parents can play a role in helping their children understand what’s happening. The election of a pope is a rare event. If parents are interested, there’s a better chance their children will remember it for years to come.

“I think it will be really interesting for them to see the process,” she said. “It really is history in the making.”

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