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Students comment on pope's resignation

By Dion PierreSpecial to the Chronicle

Pope Benedict XVI gave his farewell address Thursday, after announcing his resignation at the beginning of the month. His resignation shocked Catholics and even non-Catholics around the world, including Hofstra students and faculty.

"I was surprised," said Danielle Natorski, president of the Newman Club at Hofstra. "Catholic or non-Catholic, I think everyone can say that they were surprised. This hasn't happened in 600 years."

Rebecca Cuthbertson, a Jewish Studies major, was also taken aback by the news of his resignation.

"When I heard Pope Benedict was stepping down, I didn't realize that that was a thing", she said. "But if your health is being sacrificed for the job, take care of yourself first."

For students of non-religious affiliations, news of the resignation did not hit them so much with shock, but rather a hope for new direction.

"I hope future popes will be more willing to engage in social reforms," said Oscar Courchaine, an agnostic-atheist and president of the Hofstra Secular Alliance. "I think that the Catholic Church is much more progressive than some other churches that exist. However, it has much room for improvement."

Professor Phyllis Zagano, the senior research associate of the Religion Department at Hofstra and columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, finds that with the resignation of the pope comes a chance to take a second look at the structure of the church, particularly the role of women as deacons.

"We have the church leaning so far to the right,” said Zagano. “We don't know if [the movement] would just split the ship in two.”

Sean Magaldi, a former Catholic campus minister at Hofstra and now a seminarian at Douglaston, does not see drastic changes to Catholic doctrine even with the election of a new pope.

"The teachings of the church are not going to change," he said. "The most progressive thing you will see is the pope using Twitter."

While the date for the conclave, the process by which a pope is elected, has not been officially set, the prospect of getting a pope from a non-European country has intrigued the Hofstra community.

"I've heard much about the new pope being from a third world country," Courchaine said. "I think that would be good, as diversity is a very important part of the human experience."

Here in the United States, news media has thrown the prospects of an American cardinal into the hat of prospective popes. However, Zagano finds an American pope far-fetched.

"Since the United States is a super power, it is unlikely that the next pope will be from the United States," said Zagano.

Regardless of who assumes the papacy, Bridget McCormack is very optimistic about the Church receiving a new pope.

"I think really exciting things are happening within the church right now, and you young people are going to be more engaged," said McCormack. "My hope is that next pope... will continue that growth and that excitement."

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