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Students want pope they can relate to

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When St. Bartholomew Catholic School eighth-grader Sarah Towsley heard Monday morning that a new pope would be elected to replace the ailing and retiring Pope Benedict XVI, she had one question.

“What’s he’s going to do about the (sex abuse) scandals?” she asked Monday. “Yeah, I care. It’s students our age that something like that affects.”

The issue is important to Towsley and other young students because they have been taught to trust a parish priest as much as they do their parents.

Towsley was among a small group of eighth-graders asked by The Republic for their thoughts on Pope Benedict, or perhaps his successor.

Evan Raymer remembered that when he was a kindergartner at a Catholic school in Fort Wayne in 2005, his school had a friendly contest asking students to select whom they thought would be the new pope to succeed John Paul II, who died in office.

Pope Benedict was 78 when he was named pope and is 85 as he moves into retirement.

For the next pope, Reagan Ward said she might like to see a younger pontiff that she and her peers can relate to.

“He can be a good role model for us,” Ward said. “We can maybe take what we see in his life and apply it to ours.”

Sam Woolwine said he has kept a rose-petal-constructed rosary, a set of Catholic prayer beads, blessed by Pope Benedict. A teacher brought the rosaries to students seven years ago after a trip to Rome.

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