PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

March 13, 2013

Locals watch for white smoke

PORT ARTHUR — While the conclave congregated more than 5,600 miles away to deliberate over who would be the next leader of the Catholic Church, some Port Arthur Catholics watched and hoped that the next pope would not be so different from the last.

For Maggie Henry, Pope Benedict XVI embodied what she desired in a religious figurehead: a true, faithful leader who reached out to evangelize the youth.

“I loved Pope Benedict,” Henry, 81, said. “I just hated that he had to abdicate.”

The conclave did not determine who would succeed the papacy Tuesday, leaving the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics clueless about in which direction their church was headed. Voting will continue Wednesday since no cardinal won the necessary 77 votes on the first ballot.

But still Henry had faith.

“I’m one of those cradle Catholics,” she said, “and it’s never failed me.”

Henry attended parochial school and sent her five children through it, as well. And Catholicism has never failed them either, she said, including her 10 grandchildren.

“The Catholic Church is really one true faith,” she said.

On a practical level, Henry wants to see a bit of a younger pope – someone in his mid-60s – who could handle the job and getting older simultaneously, she said. But she did not think he should be more progressive or that the church should changes its views at all.

“I never believed in contraception,” Henry said.

Nor does she believe that women should be priests. Henry said men were better suited for the role and that it would be difficult and stressful for a woman to live as a priest.

“We are more like the mother figure in the church,” she said.

Henry is happy with the way things are in the Catholic Church. She is a member of the St. John the Evangelist Parish in Port Arthur where Rev. Sinclair Oubre resides.

And Oubre agreed with Henry. It is not the church that needs to change, he said, but it is us who need to look more deeply within ourselves. What the Catholic Church needs is a renewal of faith, he said.

“We are called in order to evangelize the world around us,” Oubre said.

That is a challenge the next pope will face – the secularization and commercialization of religion – but that is not entirely new, Oubre said. It has been a big problem for the past 40 years as the world has grown wealthier and more secular.

“Folks begin to believe that the world and buying stuff can satisfy their inner spiritual hunger,” he said, “and it can’t.”

In that way, Oubre thought the next pope should resemble Benedict, who surprised people by being less of a disciplinary figure and more of a fatherly figure, he said. While Benedict was compassionate, he still had the “fortitude to bring the church together,” Oubre said.

As he monitored the conclave’s process, Oubre was interested to see what the cardinals from third world countries would have to say. The cardinal from Ghana has done remarkable work, he said.

“One of the things you have to keep in mind is that more than 50 percent of Catholics don’t live in North America or Europe,” Oubre said. “They’re in Rio de Janiero and the Philippines. It’s a movement of the faith. It may be that the conclave selects a non-American or non-European cardinal.”

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum

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