“I believe it’s clear that anyone in a position like the pope today – any world leader, any head of state – faces a job that is more complex than it has ever been,” Bishop Wester said. “The papacy has grown and been complicated by technology and the media. It is very demanding, and it takes a lot of energy to be at the top of your game for all the things that come up. There’s a lot of stress that comes along with that. It is much different than it was in years gone by, no doubt about it.”
Pope Benedict’s tenure has also been complicated by scandals of sexual abuse of children among Catholic clergy. But Bishop Wester believes “the pope did a lot to help us deal with these issues squarely.”
“He worked very hard in this painful area,” the bishop said. “I think he accomplished a lot in that regard. As contentious as these issues have been, I think he will be remembered as someone who tried very hard to bring unity to the church and to the world.”
Primarily, Bishop Wester said, Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as “a pope who really cared about people.”
“He spoke of a God who is a God of love and compassion and reconciliation,” Bishop Wester said. “This was very important and dear to him. He will also be remembered as a pope who spoke to the foundational importance of truth in our lives. This was very important to him.”
Beloved though the pope may be, however, Bishop Wester has no concern for the future of the Catholic Church.
“Electing a new pope is something that happens normally in the church,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time. It is not unnerving. People are not startled by this.”
Certainly not the people at Mancuso’s Religious Goods, Gifts & Books on State Street in Salt Lake City. Carmen Mancuso, who has run the shop that specializes in Catholic-oriented religious merchandise for 23 years, said that although Pope Benedict has “done a great job,” shifting loyalty from one pope to the next “is something we just take in stride.”
“How long has the church been around?” he asked rhetorically. “A couple of thousand years? It’s not exactly earth-shattering.”
News reporters, he observed, make a much bigger deal out of it than do rank-and-file Catholics.
His colleague at Mancuso’s, Rich Ruiz, said he has no idea who the next pope will be — a position he shares with Bishop Wester — but he said that “with all the goings-on at the Vatican, I think they will be guided to make the right choice in the end.”
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