Dawn M. Kurry
Richmond County Daily Journal
Changes in the Vatican reach across the globe to all corners, including Richmond County.
In Hamlet, at St. James Catholic Church on Highway 74, Father Jean Pierre, a missionary originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the changes are good.
Pope Benedict XVI resigned on Feb. 28, unexpectedly, because of declining health due to old age.
“My first reaction was a shock,” said Father Jean Pierre. “But afterward, I feel it taught us that we have to be humble when we can’t handle responsibility. It was humbling for him to accept that he had to resign for health and age.”
Pierre said he doesn’t doubt that part of the responsibilities of the job that were difficult for Pope Benedict to handle were some of the ongoing scandals surrounding the church around the world.
“I think it took time,” said Pierre about the decision to resign. “He talked with his cardinals and was praying and came to the decision to quit.”
This change ushered in a time of united prayer in the Catholic church, said Pierre.
“Personally, with my entire community — in the diocese of Charlotte — we had a special prayer for God to guide the cardinals,” he said. “It was a time for each one of us to pray, and for the entire church to pray together.”
During this time, the priests watched the Vatican for signs of a new pope, but saw black smoke from the tiny chimney on the Sistine Chapel, indicating that a new pope had no been elected.
“But then, after two days of Conclave, they found the shepherd we needed,” said Pierre. “I remember this day, I was in Hickory. We had a priest meeting and we were waiting for the smoke to come out. I saw a bird on top of the chimney. In the Catholic church, the bird is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. A few hours later, we saw the white smoke. I started receiving calls from all over, congratulating us.”
Pierre said at first he wasn’t aware of the name the pope had chosen for himself, but when he heard he had chosen the name Francis, it was nearly humorous to him when he connected all the symbols.
“St. Francis loves animals and we saw the tiny bird on the chimney,” said Pierre. “When I made the connection, I thought, this is the right person.”
Pierre said the new pope must finish the outgoing pope’s schedule before he can make his own.
His impression of the new pope was that he was a humble man, for the people.
“This man is not an office man,” said Pierre. “He’s a people man. That’s the difference between them. Benedict was a smart man, all his life he was studying, writing, doing things in the office. But Francis was a pastor, working, living, praying and being with people. This is the hope that will work with people, especially the needy in our society.”
Now the churches must come together to pray for him, said Pierre.
“All the churches, we have to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide him,” said Pierre.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.