Area Catholics reflect as pope nears death

By Shannon Jenkins

As the world watched the news of Pope John Paul II, area people talked about him and his legacy.

Father Gregory Hartmayer, from St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro, recalled the pope's inauguration in 1978.

"I can remember ... the surprise that came over the whole world when a non-Italian pope was elected," he said. "That was just a shock."

It was in the late '70s that Karol Wojtyla of Poland became Pope John Paul II.

Since then, Hartmayer said the pope has been a tremendous influence in eastern Europe, a political figure and a great teacher.

As to who will follow the pope, Hartmayer said there's been a lot of speculation.

"There's been a lot of talk that the new pope will be from a developing country like Africa or Central America," he said. "The needs of the people are so great in there, and the church is very aware of their needs. It wouldn't surprise me if someone might come from those two (places)."

For Rudy Schlosser, John Paul II has been a true hero.

"If there's one person I've always wanted to meet it was him," the Jonesboro resident said. "For Catholics, he's considered a living saint."

Schlosser, president of Georgia State University's Catholic Student Association, said the pope has spent his whole life promoting a culture of life.

"He's been helping not only Catholics but the whole world," he said.

Schlosser said he hopes whoever succeeds the pontiff will follow similar viewpoints as Pope John Paul II.