VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a shocking move that has stunned the world, the College of Cardinals have announced their newly elected pontiff more than three weeks earlier than expected and that decision is already being highly debated. The Vatican raised the possibility Saturday that the conclave to elect the next pope might start sooner than March 15th and with today’s announcement have confirmed that information.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters that is was not an easy decision but putting a fresh face as the new pontiff was necessary. “The papal conclave to elect a successor was a difficult challenge. With outcries of sexual abuse around the world, the College of Cardinals felt the need for a new face, someone outside of these scandals. This would not only benefit the Vatican but help improve the image of the Catholic Church,” Lombardi said. “So without further ado, we are proud to announce Paul Horner from the Horner Consulting Group as the new Catholic pontiff. Horner has worked as a religious consultant for more than 34 years and will be a great asset to the new direction of the Catholic Church.” Lomardi continued, “Pope Benedict XVI will be stepping down February 28th as Pope Horner I will be taking over shortly thereafter.”
Joyce Barth who works for the Press Office of the Holy See applauds the selection of Horner as the new pontiff. “Putting an outside consultant as the new pope is a very wise decision. Horner will be able to come into this job fresh and unattached to any scandals associated with the Catholic Church,” Barth said. “We’re praying he can fix the tarnished image of this religion and restore it to its mighty glory that it once was.”
Pope Benedict XVI addressed an emotional crowd of well-wishers from around the world at St. Peter’s Square today, where he announced news of the newly elected pontiff. The pope’s voice was strong and clear as he looked over the square packed with at least 100,000 followers, whom he addressed in Italian, English, French, German, Polish and Spanish. He asked the faithful to “continue praying for me and for the new pope.” He also thanked the faithful for their “affection and spiritual closeness.”
Terry Parr who was assigned by the Vatican to drive Horner to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he then took a private jet to the Vatican City in Rome, said it was an exciting experience. “Yesterday our company Purple Star Limousines received a phone call requesting that we drive the new pope to the airport. At first we thought it was a prank, but after confirmation we were more than happy to help,” Parr told reporters. “I spoke with Horner briefly during the drive. He told me he was immediately doing away with the hats and odd attire normally worn by the pope and instead will be business casual. He also said he wanted to sell the Vatican and move into smaller accommodations. He explained that was just a money pit and the funds used from the sale could feed all the starving children of the world ten times over. Horner seems like a very friendly, down-to-earth individual and I think he’ll do a lot to help the Catholic Church.” Parr continued, “He had an entourage of security with him and even a gentleman by the name of Ronald Hudkins who is writing a book about this whole ordeal. To be honest, my wife and I are still overwhelmed by the whole thing. It’s like I was driving the Popemobile for a little while there. It was quite the experience.”
On February 11th Benedict XVI announced his intention to resign the papacy effective the 28th of February. Benedict XVI will be the first pope to resign in almost six centuries; the most recent pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. Benedict XVI will continue to live in the Vatican after he steps down on the 28th. His decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with the security and privacy he feels is necessary. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.