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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Students learn about new pontiff

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Second graders respond to a question-and-answer session about the newly elected pope Tuesday.
SIKESTON -- Tuesday's election of the new pope sparked an impromptu question and answer session with students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Sikeston.

"We've talked about Pope John Paul dying and had spent time about his life and about the new election," said second grade teacher Liz Bradley. "Today we're talking more about the new pope."

From who St. Benedict was to the first pope named Benedict to the fact there have been 265 popes -- by the time the bell rang to the end the day, the students knew a new pope had been elected.

"This is hurting my head," said a young girl about all of the information she was taking in.

As Bradley and St. Francis Xavier Principal Mike Eftink fielded questions from the students, they discussed why an elderly person is typically elected as pope and how many years it had been since a pope was named Benedict.

"And the new Pope Benedict is the 16th so that means there were 15 other popes named Benedict before him," Eftink told the students.

"Wow! That's a lot of popes!" said second grader Ethan Protzel.

As students were told it took two-thirds of the cardinals to elect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as the new pontiff, they also talked about what the smoke meant.

"When white smoke comes out, it means they elected a new pope," Ariel Welton explained.

And black smoke means they didn't elect a pope, another student added.

"But what is something else that let us know there was a new pope -- something with our ears?" Eftink queried.

"A radio!" answered one student.

With a couple more clues, another student guessed the ringing bells as the other signal.

But St. Francis sixth graders have been talking about the election of the new pope since Pope John Paul II died April 2 at age 84.

"It's only the cardinals and they're locked in some room -- I think it's like a chapel or something," said Jason Stratman.

Candidates of the papacy had to be 35 years old and joining the priesthood, said student Kenneth Moy.

"And when they vote, the cardinals would get a ballot and vote on it and turned it in," Moy said. "It takes three people to count the votes and put them in a chalice. And they took the ballots and put them on a string and burn them. They put white powder in it when they made a decision."

The students said they first learned of the newly elected pope from their principal during lunchtime. Eftink said the children were very inquisitive and excited about the news.

"It happened a lot sooner than I thought it would," noted Eftink who had hoped to show the students the announcement on TV, but didn't have the equipment to do so.

Now that Ratzinger has been elected as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, what does he do?

Third grader Mary Liz Klueppel said the pope's job is to tell other people about God.

Fellow classmate Sydney Hawkins said, "Well, he would try to teach all the people that believe in the devil that they should believe in God."