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Pope John Paul II’s Impact on Catholicism in the United States

April 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY KAYE: Yesterday at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, the faithful came to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Pope John Paul II.

MSGR. KEVIN KOSTELNIK: He upheld the greatest teachings of our Church. He always championed the dignity of the human person, opposing the culture of death and proclaiming the gospel of life, from the moment of conception to the moment of death.

JEFFREY KAYE: Many parishioners remembered the pope as a priest who successfully crossed borders and cultures.

CHRISTINE BUEHLMAIER: He reached out to anybody in the world, you know? He was not selfish or anything.

PAUL BUEHLMAIER: He was a great, great man who brought the world together.

JEFFREY KAYE: With five million Catholics, Los Angeles is the largest archdiocese in the United States. 70 percent of LA’s Catholics are Latino. Manuel Valle said the pope had a special meaning for Mexican Americans like him.

MANUEL VALLE: He came to the people that were, like, here in the United States are looked down on, you know, like the Indians, the blacks, the Mexicans — that whole thing, you know? And that just got me more respect. I already got a feeling from him already.

JEFFREY KAYE: Joso Rivas is on the cathedral’s janitorial staff.

JOSO RIVAS (Translated): He was a person who tried to help the poor. He visited many Latin American countries. He was always on the side of the poor.

JEFFREY KAYE: Many here reflected on the pope’s charm. In his homily, Monsignor Kevin Kostelnick remembered a brief meeting with the pontiff, when he accompanied Los Angeles archbishop, now cardinal, Roger Mahoney to the Vatican.

MSGR. KEVIN KOSTELNIK: And I said to Archbishop Mahoney, “What should I say? What if he wants to talk theology? What if he wants to ask hard questions?” And as I stood there, the Holy Father then immediately came into the room and all of us applauded.

He went up to Archbishop Mahoney, and the archbishop greeted him, introduced me. The pope stepped back and looked at us, and this is what he said: “Archbishop Mahoney, how is Hollywood?” How wonderfully human and down to earth he was.

JEFFREY KAYE: At Delores Mission, a Jesuit church in East Los Angeles, the Reverend Sean Carroll presided over morning mass. Although he, too, honored the pope’s life, Carroll hopes that the pope’s death will lead to change within the Church. He’d like to see the Vatican give more autonomy to local churches and to laypeople.

REV. SEAN CARROLL: I think in this country, an important and crucial movement is the empowerment of our laypeople, in ministry and in terms of the leadership that they exercise to the church.

JEFFREY KAYE: Carroll believes more local autonomy will help the Church better deal with sexual abuse scandals and internal debates over abortion, homosexuality, and birth control. Carroll says that it is also time for the church to talk more seriously about a wider role for women, including ordination.

REV. SEAN CARROLL: I think it’s important to discuss that question and to talk about it. You know, I think if we’re all given a baptismal call, you know, then it’s important for us as a church, really, to reflect on what is the role of women, and ordination, you know, certainly a discussion of the possibility of ordination, I think would be part of that.

JEFFREY KAYE: But many Catholics believe that little change is necessary.

LAURIE HICKS: I don’t need to be ordained, and I live an extremely spiritual life. And I don’t – and I don’t think that priests need to be married. I think it’s important, actually, that they remain celibate, and I think those are important things to keep as they are.

SUSANNAH KLOEPFER: I personally would like to see a more conservative pope. I would like to see someone who has strong values and wants to uphold our Church’s teachings.

JEFFREY KAYE: But yesterday, most congregants put Church politics aside and instead focused their feelings on the pope and his death.

ROSALINDA ALCANTARA: It’s sadness, but also we know that he’s still looking down on us, and I know he’ll always be there. We can pray to him.