Change of popes affects local congregationThe selection of a new pope following the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI will affect local Catholics in a number of ways, some more noticeable than others.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The selection of a new pope following the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI will affect local Catholics in a number of ways, some more noticeable than others.
For one thing, churchgoers at the St. James Basilica have already begun to pray for a new pope during the Mass.
“Right now, when I celebrate daily Eucharist, I use particular prayers for election of a new pope, and the prayers focus on a pastor who will shepherd the flock,” said the Rev. Al Bitz, pastor of St. James Basilica.
“Grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care,” reads one of the prayers.
Another refers to God granting a “shepherd, who will instruct your people by his virtues and imbue the minds of the faithful with the truth of the Gospel.”
One thing that isn’t explicitly included in the standard text of the Mass is a prayer for the surviving former Pope — likely because there hasn’t been one since Pope Gregory XII stepped down in 1451.
Bitz simply folds a prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict into the prayers of the faithful, which change according to needs anyway.
“Right now, we’re planning, and as soon as a new pope is elected, we will celebrate a Eucharist, celebrating the election and praying for the new pope,” Bitz said.
Getting a new pope has a special significance for the Jamestown church. Because of its status as a basilica, it has a special connection to the Chair of Peter, the apostle considered to have been the first pope. Basilicas serve as centers of liturgical and pastoral ministry.
“As a basilica, we do celebrate certain feasts for the pope,” Bitz explained. “So for us, the election of a new pope would be a solemnity — we celebrate in a more solemn manner.”
When the church receives a new pope, the yellow and white papal flag, with its crossed keys and crown, will be placed at the front entrance of the basilica, Bitz said.
Having no pope in office has had an effect on Jamestown, too.
The local parish is part of the Diocese of Fargo, which currently has a vacancy in the office of bishop.
In the Catholic Church, the Pope appoints new bishops.
According to a press release from the Diocese, the vacancy began when Bishop Samuel Aquila was appointed archbishop of the Denver Archdiocese.
Currently, Bishop David Kagan, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bismarck, is serving as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Fargo.
The vacant position points to one of the many ways a new pope will affect Catholics all over the world.
“Changes that will happen will depend more on the people he chooses for the curial (administrative) offices and the bishops he appoints,” Bitz said.
Smaller changes people may notice are the changing out of pictures of the pope that hang on the walls at St. John’s Academy.
“As Catholics, we know that this is an important election, because it calls for a very virtuous person, and at the same time, a great administrator,” Bitz said. “And today everything is so transparent.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at