Catholics worldwide offer their hopes for the new pope – interviews

As 115 cardinals prepare to enter discussions on who will be the successor to Benedict XVI, we interview some of the faithful

Raymond Anoliefo, a priest in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos

I would expect the new Holy Father to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and hold on to the basic doctrines of the church. I would like to see the him look into the church in Africa properly, because it's very vibrant and growing.

I doubt any pope will want to make any doctrinal changes in the core issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception. Of course, he shouldn't. Personally I believe the stricter the better so that we all can sit up. Liberalism in the secular world is gradually eating into the church.

The church shouldn't be trying to follow what's trending in the world, but rather should lead the world. Things like abortion: of course women have a choice but some fail to realise any child given to a woman by God has to be protected. Instead [those who abort] are killing the child.

In Africa homosexuality is becoming a problem because of cultural contact. We need the same gospel with a fresh outlook so that the 21st-century Christian can better appreciate God without distorting the original message of Christ. There is talk that priests should start getting married – these aren't the solutions. Marriage can't be seen as a leeway because even marrying one woman isn't a guarantee you will be faithful. It is about faith.

It's a delicate issue but in the final analysis, condoms are against life. In our parents' days people were proud to be virgins, to be pure and chaste. If you start debating condoms then people will start talking about sterilisation next. Masturbation, lesbianism, homosexuality, extramarital sex is bad enough. Using condoms is to double the sin on top of that. Jesus didn't find everything easy, we ourselves should be willing to make sacrifices.

I think the new Holy Father also needs to bring fresh emphasis to the gospel's words on the downtrodden. The Catholic church says we are all children of God and you have to talk about morality, corruption and poverty.

Sister Florence Deacon, president of the US-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious and director of the Congregation Sisters of St Francis of Assisi

We hope that the new pope has personal experience with a variety of women religious [nuns and sisters] and understands that out of their deep love of the church they faithfully took the mandate of the Second Vatican council to renew consecrated life in response to the prompting of the spirit, the gospel of Jesus and lived experience.

During Pope Benedict's term there have been two investigations of women religious in the United States. We hope that the new pope will be open to dialogue with women religious, and will seek out the counsel of women, including women religious, both informally and by creating new structures to ensure it happens. Perhaps the pope could meet with representative leaders of women's congregations in small groups on a rotating basis according to geographic regions so they could get to know each other and build a climate of trust, then to share common concerns, hopes and dreams for the church.

For the first time in the United States and possibly other countries, more young women than young men are leaving the Catholic church. Although many report that they value spirituality, they don't see a place for themselves in Catholicism. Listening to the voices of women and appointing significant numbers of qualified women to responsible positions in the universal church would give them hope.

In his teaching, Jesus drew on the lived experiences of lepers, breadmakers, Samaritans, farmers, widows, tax collectors and housewives. He counted a very diverse group among his close friends and disciples. Who are the marginalised that the church needs to reach out to today? By walking in these footprints of Jesus, church leaders would begin to bridge the disconnect many faithful feel with the church.

Father Franklin d'Souza, national youth director for the Indian Catholic Youth Movement, New Delhi

I hope we get a pope who can lead the church. What I feel is that the church has its own duties and all the cardinals are waiting for the intervention of the holy spirit. We are all from different nationalities, cultures, languages, traditions but united in fate. What I also feel is that for 2000 years the church has stood not on human strength but on the strength of God. And it is clear that Jesus himself is the supreme pastor who leads the church. I hope in the conclave God will bless a pope after his heart. One who can uphold the divine law.

These are modern times and there are various challenges, like technology, communications, that the old guard faces. We need to communicate to everybody and have dialogue with every other religion and we can't be isolated, but must maintain a relationship with the statesmen of various countries and keep up the human values which are preached by Jesus: love, peace, truth, joy.

From whichever nationality or country the pope comes, really doesn't matter, whether he is European, or from the developing or developed world. He should just be one who understands the hearts and minds of people, nations.

Always the church reads the signs of the times and reacts accordingly.

But it should not be labelled under conservative or liberal. This doesn't matter. As long as he [the new pope] reads the signs of the times and leads the church with truth.

Father Dominic d'Breo, spokesman, Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

This is one of the most important events to be held by the church for a very long time. One-hundred-and-fifteen cardinals have gathered in the Vatican. We are very happy and eagerly await the new pope. The pope who has just resigned as head has so beautifully mentioned that he resigned because of his advanced age and the demands of the world, which he found difficult to cope with. He felt the need for a new and younger pope to take over. Surely he has given this as an opportunity to appoint a new and more dynamic pope.

One important tradition that the church has been following is the intervention of the holy spirit to guide the cardinals at the conclave to appoint a pope who is fit for the coming years. So the cardinals are having a congregation meeting, discussing the challenges and the state of the church, and so it is sure they will be guided by the holy spirit to choose an apt candidate.

There are so many problems in present times, of the secular world and otherwise, we cannot just say we want a conservative or a liberal for a pope. We require a pope who is just the right mix of all – liberal, conservative and so on – someone who can follow the traditions but also be able to put in perspective the modern and make sense of it. We have all been trained to take up the challenges of the real world and blend it with the traditional.

Theresa Lang, 22, Chinese documentary film-maker

In China, this type of thing is pretty sensitive. In general, other countries' bishops are approved by the pope, but in China, the Communist party appoints its own bishops.

[The Chinese government] doesn't want to have any interference from the Vatican, so in official churches, people don't talk about this much. Chinese priests will say let's pray for the pope, things like that, but they don't say very much about him.

In my church, there are two different groups. One is older people – they're usually more influenced by the country. Like my grandma and grandpa, they don't think that the Communist party is harmful for Catholics in China. Younger Catholics, though, we think that this is unacceptable. We don't accept the bishops that China appoints.

We all hope that the new pope can improve relations with China, but the Chinese government definitely won't change any of its policies about Catholic things – I don't think they will ever change them, though I wish they would.

Personally, I hope the next pope can be more transparent, that he'll improve corruption in the church and change what the church is doing in Africa. Most Chinese people don't have much faith, and they think the church is a very dark organisation, that it's very mysterious. I hope the pope can fix that, too.

Jesús Sánchez, 86, priest and professor of canon law at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro

First and foremost the pope should be a man of faith. Someone who lives united with God through the power of prayer. With this spiritual experience he should have the strength to face the many problems that he will have to deal with.

But at the same time, he must be a man with a wide cultural knowledge who is able to speak to the world about contemporary issues. To handle the administration of the Catholic church, which is very complex and unique, he needs to have not only pastoral experience, but also administrative skills. Beyond everything, he should be a man with a compassionate heart, with the capability to offer mercy and forgiveness.

The region is absolutely secondary. To be Catholic is to encompass the whole of humanity. As St Paul said, there is no distinction between people by their origins.

There isn't an ideal age. I would say that he should be between 70 and 75 years old.

It would be good if he had the communication capability of João Paulo II and the deeper theological skills of Bento XVI. It would also be good if he had the energy of the first and the sweetness of the second.

Undoubtedly, it is necessary to show the nation that religion is not disconnected from everyday life. In the mist of growing secularisation, the church should advertise and defend Christian values in the family, at work, at school, in factories or workshops.

Bento XVI broached this issue by creating the Pontifical Council for Evangelisation. The new pope should encourage and support these initiatives.

Analia Canessa, 49, a bank clerk in Buenos Aires, who visits the Metropolitan cathedral every day

I'd like to see a pope like Mother Teresa, someone who lives in the real world and can connect with people. We need a pope who sees what is going on and feels a profound concern for social issues. Pope Jean Paul II was like that, but in recent years there has been some distance. That is why I appeal for a pope with a humanistic view of the world.

If we don't have that then more people will leave the church. In Argentina that is already happening. Many of my friends have recently given up Catholicism and taken up other religions.

Some people say that the next pope might be from South America. With Europe in the midst of an economic and social crisis, I think they are looking for alternatives for many things, but I don't know the candidates they mention. That's the problem. So I think they will pay more attention to other parts of the world.

There is even talk that he might come from Argentina, from this cathedral even, but I do not know the candidates that they mention from here. That is the problem. I have great faith and I come to this cathedral every day, but people high up in the church do not connect with the people.

In the end, the important thing is not where the pope is from or how old he is, but what he thinks and what he does.

Oscar Cruz, former archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan, Philippines

Was a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) with Luis Antonio Tagle, the most senior Fillipino cardinal.

I personally would want the new pope to bring the Catholic church back to the people who have abandoned her and who have also become cold in their Catholic faith. In other words, a pope who would be able to enliven the Catholic faith again and to make more people appreciate the Catholic church. This problem of sexual misbehaviour by some priests and brothers should be addressed – and addressed fast and addressed well.

From my personal knowledge of Tagle, and I would like to think I know him rather well because we were together for more than five years working together in different concentrations, I can say without an iota of doubt that he is intelligent, humble and kind. But do I think he will be elected pope? Human intervention is not [that] which eventually triumphs in this exercise: the hand of God is there too – it is unexplainable but it is there.

Before he resigned from office, Benedict XVI issued an apostolic letter calling for the "year of faith". The time has come when it is not the sheep that go to the shepherd, but the shepherd who goes to the sheep. Every time Pope John Paul II came to this country – and he came to the Philippines twice – he left more Catholic than before. So it is my thinking that a younger father will be elected pope, someone similar to John Paul II, who will go around the world, like the shepherd meeting the sheep, to enliven the faith once again."

What are your hopes for the new pope? Share your opinion in the comments below.


Interviews by Monica Mark, Jonathan Watts, Jason Burke, Kate Hodal, Jonathan Kaiman

The GuardianTramp

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