Faithful attending Sunday Mass on five continents for the first time since Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement had different ideas about who should next lead the Roman Catholic Church, with people suggesting everything from a Latin American pope to one more like the conservative, Polish-born John Paul II. What most agreed on, however, was the church is in dire need of a comeback.
Clergy sex-abuse scandals and falling numbers of faithful have taken their toll on the church, and many parishioners said the next pope should be open about the problems rather than ignore them.
Worshippers in the developing world prayed for a pope from a poorer, non-European nation, while churchgoers in Europe said what was more important was picking a powerful figure who could stop the steep losses in Catholic numbers.
Some South African Catholics called for what they said was a more pragmatic approach to contraception given the AIDS epidemic devastating that continent. They also suggested ending the celibacy requirement for priests, insisting on what’s viewed as the traditional importance of a man having a family.
Catholics likely will find out this week whether such hopes become reality, as cardinals worldwide arrive in Rome for a conclave that could elect a new pontiff. Many expect the church to pick another European to replace the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned Thursday.
In Brazil, the Vatican has seen its numbers chipped away by neo-Pentecostal churches offering the faithful rollicking music-filled services and hands-on practical advice. It’s an approach matched by the massive Mother of God sanctuary led by Brazil’s Grammy-nominated “pop-star priest” Marcelo Rossi.
More traditional Catholics snub Rossi’s “charismatic” masses, but many point to his style of aggressive evangelization as the way forward in the world’s biggest Catholic nation, which has seen Catholics drop from 74 percent of the population in 2000 to 65 percent a decade later.
The archbishop of Sao Paulo, Odilo Scherer, is considered by many to be Latin America’s leading candidate to become pope.
Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, is still much admired in his native Poland and elsewhere, and many faithful around the globe said the next pope should strive to be as beloved as him.