Oregon priests predict surprises, leadership from Benedict XVI

Catholic should be wise and not put their leaders “in a box,” Fr. Gary Zerr told the Stateman Journal, referring to the newly inaugurated Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope has received harsh criticism in the last week due to the reputation that he had developed as a hardliner in his role as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"A true shepherd will not be classified so easily,” said the pastor of St. Edward Church in Keizer, Oregon. “A true shepherd will always surprise us.”

In interviews with the Statesman Journal, a number of parish priests expressed their views on the new Pope. Their comments were an effort to assuage any misgivings about the new Pope and urge some skeptical Catholics to keep an open heart and mind.

“At home in Germany he is known as a 'liberal' in the classical use of that term. To the world at large he is usually labeled as a 'conservative,'” said Fr. Zerr.

"Although we know so much about him, this pope will no doubt surprise us in many ways,” said Fr. Zerr.

Fr. James Coleman said he ignores labels people place on others, stating: "Our new pope is an excellent scholar and teacher of the faith. He is also known as a good listener and a concerned observer of events and trends.”

The pastor of St. Joseph Church in Salem spoke of the new Pope’s strong Christian roots in Germany. “Our new Holy Father knows and treasures that faith. … We can expect a clear and faithful voice, speaking the truth without fear, as did his predecessor.”

Fr. Coleman urged Catholics to trust in Providence. “I truly believe that the gathering and the decision of the cardinals was a prayerful one, guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Fr. George Wolf, pastor of Queen of Peace in Salem, said people should come to learn and understand Pope Benedict on “who he is in relationship with God's people now. I look forward to learning more about who he is as a person of deep faith in God.”

"He has literally changed hats from primarily being an administrator to a pastor,” Fr. Wolf observed. “Those who know him well comment about his sincere spirituality, intelligence, style, humility, and personableness. These qualities of who he is will serve him well as a pastor in the universal Church.”

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