When Pope Benedict XVI gave his last address in St. Peter's Square today (Feb. 27), 17-year-old Ilaria Romanello's parents told her they weren't going to attend. Even though they're lifelong Catholics and live in Rome.
“My family is just really, really disappointed. I don't think they want to participate in it anymore, and I agree with them,” Ilaria said. “I just don't like it, him stepping down. Because it just can't be decided by a human. It (being the pope) is something God tells you to do.” Ilaria is a visiting student at Laney High School until June.
Cristiana Imperiali, a 17-year-old student at Trask High School in Pender County, agreed with her countrywoman. She and 17-year-old Riccardo Scarvaci arrived for the second semester of high school in January. Riccardo is studying at Hoggard High School.
“Pope John Paul stayed until the last breath,” she said. “He was really different from this one. He was really good to the young people.”
While the political and religious hierarchy in Italy is in flux this month with the country's elections and the pontiff's decision to step down, the three teens are soaking up faith and society in Southeastern North Carolina. To represent her family's faith, Ilaria painted the papal crest on a quilt square which will be part of the Cape Fear Spirit Quilt.
Riccardo says he was raised in the Catholic church and doesn't believe in it now. But he did visit St. Mark Catholic Church to have a reference for comparison.
“Our churches are like old buildings. And here you see churches in a lot of different buildings. In Italy, you can see that it's a church,” he added. “I cannot say if our God or religion is the only one. I cannot say if people of other religions are the rights ones or the wrong ones.”
Ilaria has visited Northside Baptist Church and said she liked the youth group there.
“You don't really have a relationship with God in Italy because this person has to communicate between you and God,” she said. “I don't really like religion there. There you have to choose between your life and God. And here God is in your life.”
In early February, the Vatican's culture ministry, the Pontifical Council for Culture admitted in a paper that the Catholic church doesn't fully understand today's youth. That's a problem these three teens hope the next pope can correct.
“I think we need someone who really is not young but not so old,” Cristiana said. “My parents told me that in Italy they're saying the next pope could be an American.”
“I'd like to see a more open person,” Riccardo added.
“I'd like to see a person not from Italy,” Ilaria said.