The West

Faithful look for wider appeal

Perth's Catholics are divided over what they want from the next pope. Some favour the safe hands of his predecessors while others want a more progressive leader to bring people back to the Church.

_The West Australian _ spoke yesterday to churchgoers, priests, Catholic teachers and parents about what they wanted from the 266th pope.

About 50 people were at the midday service at Perth's St Mary's Cathedral conducted by Father Maurice Toop, who played down the need to counter declining Church attendances.

He said the Catholic faith was growing strongly in regions such as Africa and South America.

"It's alive and well even in Perth," he said.

The only certainty was that the new pope would be different from Benedict XVI.

One attendee, who asked not to be named, wants to see a new pope steer the Church towards being more inclusive of other faiths and people of different backgrounds and sexualities.

"There's no doubt the Church needs to play a much deeper and broader role in terms of politics and in terms of society," he said. "We certainly have to change our perception as to who God is and it's about time the Catholic Church embraced all people under the umbrella of God."

But fellow churchgoer Keith Stone dismissed the notion of a papal "wish list". "We don't ask for the pope to do things, we are obedient to him," he said. Sinead French-Bluhn, whose children attend separate Ocean Reef Catholic schools, was among those who saw a new pope as an opportunity for the Church to embrace the modern world. She said feedback from other mothers was unanimous.

"We all thought they should be looking for a younger pope," she said. "Really, the Catholic Church should try and reform things and they can only do that if they look to a younger person."

Catholic Education Office WA assistant director learning and teaching Debra Sayce said the new pope would need to engage with young people but that did not mean a younger pope was needed.

"It's just the mindset people have," she said.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said he awaited the new pope "with hope and trust in God's unfailing goodness and mercy".

The West Australian

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