Wisconsin Catholics Welcome New Pope, Wonder About Future

By: Mike Johnson
By: Mike Johnson

In Wisconsin, 39 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, more than any other denomination. And Wisconsin Catholics are already embracing their new pope.

They're also anxious to learn what kind of pope he'll be.

Young Madison Catholics were watching with the rest of the world, as a new pope is introduced. And the news spread quickly, from white smoke to a text message in class.

"Just saying white smoke, so I poked my friend next to me and she her friend next to her," says UW student Jack Koczela.

They already feel a connection to a new pope. "You just feel a very strong connection to John Paul the Second and now Pope Benedict the 16th," says UW student Carolyn Averill.

At St. Paul's Catholic Church, prayers for the pope and the church.

At St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee, a special service to mark the election.

"As one of his first words, he said I don't feel up to the task, so I'm counting on your prayers," says Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

And all around Wisconsin he's getting those prayers.

At a news conference, Madison Bishop Robert Morlino called him a brilliant theologian. And despite Ratzinger's reputation as a hardliner, Bishop Morlino told us in an exclusive live interview on NBC 15 News at Six, there are misperceptions.

"I think sometimes we hear more about how he expresses his love of the truth, sometimes its make to sound as though its not very loving. But in fact I know personally that it is," says Bishop Morlino.

So what do Wisconsin Catholics expect of this new pope?

Archbishop Dolan says wait and see. "Catholics are just relieved we have a pope. Who he is, his style, what he's gonna bring, we'll wait and see."

And what about comparisons to John Paul? "We don't expect one to be the other," says Bishop Morlino.

The Madison Diocese will offer prayers for Pope Benedict the 16th at St. James Parish on Sunday.

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