The Pope Resigned, Now What?

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates in Madrid, SpainThe pope decided that after eight years of leading the Catholic Church, he would take a step back and leave it to someone else to carry on the mission.

Pope Benedict XVI, known for his conservative views, is the first pope to resign in 600 years leaving the seat open for possibly a more liberal leader. Throughout his years at the Vatican, the German pope, whom said it was never his goal to become pope, had to face scandals of child abuse, spoke against stem cell research, same-sex marriage and objected to women becoming priests.

With that, the pope’s resignation came as a shock to all people, regardless of race, culture, religion and creed. The conversation now stems to whether or not the 1-billion-strong Catholic community worldwide will have a leader throughout the rest of the Lenten season and into Easter, the most important celebration in the Catholic Church, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Does this affect the Catholic Latino community?

According to Pew Research, 72 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America and the Caribbean. Within the United States, it is estimated that approximately 70 percent of all Latinos are Catholic.

Whether these people are practicing Catholics is unknown. Many, however, still claim Catholicism for the mere fact that they do not want to turn their back on their culture of which religion is a large part.

Currently, Latinos make up 20 percent of the Millennial generation. The Millennial generation, noted those of ages 18-29, are considerably less religious than generations before them. However, they do still believe in basic principals of religious teachings such as life after death, heaven and hell, and miracles, even though they don’t pray as much as older generations.

It is known that this has been a battle for the Catholic Church for the last few years, which started a campaign to have the younger generations “come home.” Catholic parishes have been trying to keep Latino children and families in their elementary schools even though churches are packed every Sunday by Latino churchgoers.

Similar to other cultures, the Latino culture is very firmly tied to religion whether it is a sect of Christianity, Catholicism or other similar practices. The traditions of Catholicism sit deeply rooted in Latino traditions and is seen in celebrations of Los Reyes Magos, Día de Los Muertos, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and even in the traditional recipes eaten during Lent and Advent, among others.

Religion, to put it simply, is a mark of culture. Culture has transformed itself over years that Latinos have been in the United States and with that, so has the religious outlook. The culture has remained but the concept of non-questionable religion is changing into a more spiritual sense of beliefs.

What if there isn’t a Pope appointed for Easter?

People have come to understand that the world will not end if there isn’t a pope to lead the community into the Easter celebrations. People are typically very focused on their community and parishes, not to be swayed by a hierarchical position if their priest is still present at their parish to celebrate the Mass. The pope has become a figure of Catholic belief systems, but as time has passed, has also become an ornamental figure for the community.

This makes sense in an emerging world where individuals are feeling that they can align their beliefs with a higher power on their own accord, not limiting to the belief that going to church or believing, without question, what the Catholic church states as religious law.

The psychology behind religion states that for communities, religion is the answer to the world’s greatest mysteries. In recent decades, however, the terms “spiritual” and “spirituality” have grown in positive and have been favored among clinical psychologists over “religion.” The term “spiritual” is deeply individualistic and subjective to the idea that one can be close to whatever higher being he or she believes without the help of dogmatic practices or rituals, as opposed to the term “religion.”

There is nothing out there pinning individuals against religion, however, as people evolve in a questioning society, many Latinos feel that they have alternatives to life’s questions, which allow them to venture outside of the church for practical guidance. The classic use of religion has dissipated and has developed into an internal individualistic relationship between a person and his or her belief in God.

As creatures of habit and of deep cultural ties though, Latinos will still come together on Sundays for worship, and every Christmas, Easter, Feast of Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe, churches will be packed with people singing, praying and giving thanks because, after all, it is a cultural tradition.