May Mattson

Several local Catholic parishioners said recently they hoped their church’s next worldwide leader would be energetic and ready to address new challenges.

“I don’t want to say ‘a younger man,’ but hopefully someone who has stronger physical capabilities, and also someone who can think globally, and not in a divisive fashion,” said Mary Mattson of Sandy Springs. “The church has many different facets to it globally and [the pope should be] someone who’s aware of that.”

Pope Benedict XVI stunned Catholics around the world with his announcement Feb. 11 that he would resign on Feb. 28. The 85-year-old pontiff said he would resign because of failing strength. He is the first pope to resign in about 600 years.

Charles Lynch

James Zwald, a member at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead, said he was a little surprised by the news at first, but could understand the decision.

“I thought the rationale he used was reasonable,” Zwald said, who said the next pope should be someone who is “motivated and energetic.”

Mattson said she, too, was surprised at first. “I had to take a few minutes and pause and think about it,” she said after a mid-day mass at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody. “I really think it took great courage to stand up and say, ‘I no longer feel like I can honor this position and perform it in the way it needs to be performed.’”

Several parishioners interviewed as they left Ash Wednesday services on Feb. 13 said they would welcome a decision by church leaders to select a pope from outside Europe.

I would like to see a pope who represents that part of the world where our faith is strongest, which means South America,” Karen Ehmer of Dunwoody said.

Karen Ehmer

Charles Lynch of Dunwoody said the College of Cardinals, which will choose the next pope, has more choices now than in the past.

“Historically, it’s always been within Europe, but history [now] has given us a lot more opportunities and a lot more choices. The cardinals, from everything I’ve seen, are very well qualified to make this decision.”

What sort of man should the cardinals choose?

“I would have to use the term ‘Renaissance [Man],’ Lynch said. “This person needs to be able to look at the past and present, and meld the needs of all the Catholics out there.”