The state’s four Catholic bishops say interest in the election of a new pope is creating “energy” in their church.
“Maybe this is a bad analogy, but it’s almost like watching Britain and their monarchy,” Davenport Bishop Martin Amos said during a visit to the Iowa statehouse this past week. “Everybody gets excited about it and I think there’s a lot of excitement when it’s been so long that a pope retired.”
Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese said he’s experienced some of the energy first-hand as he’s talked with students in Catholic schools about the search for a new pope.
“Anytime you have a new beginning, it gives people a great deal of hope and, I think, creates curiosity for the church and where it’s going to go,” Pates said, “and personalities make a difference, obviously.”
Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Sioux City Diocese said the pope’s exit means a potential “shake-up” in church hierarchy.
“You know, I admire Pope Benedict so much because he had the courage and the humility to have all this power as pope and yet step back and say for the good of the church, we need a younger man,” Nickless said. “He is modeling, again, something that we all need to think about: What can we do for the mission that we have? And if we’re in the way of the mission, we might as well step out and let someone else move in and, with the church, it’s so important. We need strong, vigorous leadership.”
Nickless is 65 years old and the youngest of the four Catholic bishops in Iowa. Nickless laughed at the suggestion he might like to be pope.
“No, my resume is not in the mail,” Nickless said. “I’m very happy being the bishop of Sioux City and I couldn’t think of anything worse than being pope.”
Archbishop Jerome Hanus of the Dubuque Catholic Diocese is the state’s top-ranking Catholic official. Hanus, who is 72, told reporters from Radio Iowa and The Cedar Rapids Gazette that he is “too old” to be pope. Hanus was surprised Pope Benedict took the job back in April of 2005.
“You know, if I were 78 and the cardinals voted for me, I would be like several have done in the past and say, ‘Sorry, I just don’t think I can carry the load,'” Hanus said. “I’m just amazed that he was able to do it for almost eight years and that he had the courage and the understanding that he wasn’t able to continue.”
One of the Iowa Catholic bishops did joke about keeping their cell phone clear so a call from the Vatican could come through. Another, Bishop Amos of Davenport, also joked.
“I have a one-way ticket to Rome, if they want me. I’m ready,” Amos said, laughing. “No, it’s the last thing I’d want to do.”
Pope Benedict is the first pope in nearly 600 years to voluntarily step down.
Iowa’s four Catholic bishops were at the statehouse this past Wednesday to meet with legislators.