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Hope in the Pope?

By Emily Stenquist
On May 14, 2013

Pope Benedict XIV's resignation caused quite a stir in the media, as the decision was something that had not been done since 1415.

The news has been treating the papal abdication like the O.J. Simpson case. So why the fuss over the man whose only seeming relevance is the rhetorical question of his religion when asked an obvious question?

The Pope these days, at least in the United States, is more of a figurehead than an actual man of power. In case anyone was wondering, the official job of the His Holiness is to oversee the entire Catholic Church and spread the word of Catholicism. Much like Queen Elizabeth II of England, the pope has a certain level of power but does not utilize much of it. He, much like his resignation, is more of a symbol.

One theory as to why the Pope's resignation has spun the media into such a frenzy is that if there is enough coverage, people might start caring about the idea of the Pope again. The position of Roman Pontiff might seem less like an antiquated novelty if news stations and papers treat it like a hot-button issue. Fox could even greenlight "Italian Idol" and get millions on the Roman bandwagon to find the next liver-spotted holy man.

Another more plausible conjecture is that the abundance of attention paid to the scandal of resignation itself will mask the rumor mongering of the extremely likely reason why the stepping-down took place: Pope Benedict XIV allegedly contributed to the awful stereotype linked between Catholic priests and young boys.

Not only have accusations been made about the former Pope's own behavior, but of other priests under his jurisdiction, which were covered up in an act of damage control rather than confronted and adjudicated.

It has not been said whether these deplorable allegations are true, but the Pontiff decided it was his time to retire shortly after they were made. Perhaps the fascination of Pope Benedict XIV's retirement has usurped the title of Most Stimulating Piece of Catholic News.

This morning, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected as Pope Benedict XIV's successor when white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel. Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis, is the first pope from the Americas.

This historical first has only fueled the papal media fire. As people cheered at the Vatican for their new leader of faith, it became clear that all the press coverage and fanaticism is serving as an opportunity to give the Catholic church a new image.

Perhaps Pope Francis will carry the centuries-old faith into the modern world with grace and dignity, scandal-free. We can only pope-er, hope.

Emily Stenquist is a Tower staff writr. Email her at e.byrne.stenquist(at)gmail(dot)com.

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