First papal resignation in 600 years stirs response on campus

SF State students attend a 45 minute service for Ash Wednesday in between their classes at the Jack Adams auditorium located in the Ceaser Chavez Student Center on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Photo by Frank Leal / Xpress

During the Ash Wednesday Mass at Jack Adams Hall, Feb. 13, 19-year-old history major Josefina Parra prayed for SF State students, those in need, and the Pope and his spirit.

On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation of the papacy. Going into effect on Feb. 28, the position will be vacant until a successor is chosen by the Vatican.

“I think it’s something that people should know about, for a world leader of magnitude to just step aside,” Parra said.

Affected by this decision is the Newman Club at SF State, a campus catholic ministry group. On campus since the 1950s, the Newman Club is a ministerial presence at non-Catholic universities across the U.S.

The group hosted the Ash Wednesday Mass at Jack Adams Hall, gathering dozens of students to share their common beliefs. Club members such as Parra were aware of the Pope’s resignation and historical impact. Parra has been a member since her freshman year.

“As students, we should strive to know more,” Parra said. She wasn’t the only student to voice concern.

Students Gaby Mendiola and Cathy Avina, who attended the mass, also had thoughts to share.

“It’s a little alarming,” Avina, a 20-year-old liberal studies major, said. “How did that situation come about? How is the community going to handle it?”

These are questions many students at SF State and throughout the world are anticipating as the resignation date and papacy choice approaches.

“I don’t know how to react,” Mendiola, a 21-year-old biochemistry major, said. “It’s concerning. I do believe it’s for his health.”

Mendiola and Avina agreed it was obvious Pope Benedict XVI’s health had declined since he had been elected in 2005.

Bishop William J. Justice of St. Thomas More Church was invited to participate in the ceremonies at the on-campus Ash Wednesday Mass and he also had an opinion on the matter.

“(Students) may not have any feeling about (the Pope’s resignation),” Bishop Justice said.

Parra had a similar take on the resignation’s effect on students.

“I don’t think non-religious people know, unless they follow the news,” Parra said.