PITTSFIELD -- Father Michael Shershanovich, of Saint Joseph's Parish in Pittsfield, has engaged in ample conversation to know what he'd like to see in the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Following afternoon Mass on Saturday, Shershanovich said he's been inundated with questions about the next pope since Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 8.
"I am sure I've been asked 115 times," about who he'd like to see named. That has given him time to think about the qualities that person should have.
In the lead-up to the selection, Catholics, including those in the Berkshires, are actively engaged in discussions about the qualities they'd like to see in the next pope, the spiritual leader of their religion.
The first round of secret balloting to elect the pope will begin on Tuesday afternoon at the Vatican. A two-thirds majority from 115 cardinal electors, or 77 votes, is needed to choose the next pope. In the possible scenario that no candidate receives enough votes on Tuesday, there will be follow-up votes until someone is chosen.
Shershanovich emphasized the candidate should be a "healer" given the recent sex abuse and other scandals that have recently haunted the church. The scandals have created hard feelings and alienated Catholics, he said.
He said the unprecedented decision by Benedict to resign requires that the next pope is a strong administrator who can settle future questions that arise.
"[The pope] represents Jesus Christ for me," he said.
According to Pastor William Pomerleau, a staff correspondent for Springfield-based Catholic Communications Corp., there are 250,000 Catholics in Western Massachusetts.
Worldwide there are more than one billion Catholics, he said.
Pomerleau said the recent scandals are being discussed by the cardinals. He said the cardinals
"It's a way to put these issues on the world agenda," he said.
The extended period between Benedict's resignation announcement and the vote has provided an opportunity for Catholics to discuss their priorities and candidates from outside Europe. Catholics in Africa and South America have pointed to the church's growth on their continents in suggesting it is time to reach beyond Europe in naming the next holy leader. Pomerleau agrees that the religion is growing fastest in those developing nations.
Pittsfield resident Katherine O'Brien, attending afternoon Mass at Sacred Heart Church on Elm Street, said she'd like to see a pope who was more progressive. To amplify her point, she noted that all the cardinals voting for the next pope are male.
Andrea Toussaint, also of Sacred Heart Church, said the next pope needs to offer guidance to young adults.
She praised Pope John Paul II for his appeal to youth and also praised Benedict's commitment to tradition.
Sister Jean Bostley, of St. Joseph, said she recently heard a guest speaker on a news show describe the perfect candidate as Jesus Christ with an MBA. The candidate would be holy and healthy with good leadership skills.
"His point was there is no perfect candidate," Bostley said.
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