Dirk Tanzler, head of the German Catholic youth department, conceded in a recent interview with Der Spiegel that Benedict is more of a professor than the charismatic Pope John Paul II, and “that’s a world foreign to many young people.... Not all Catholic youth see the pope as an example…. Most have a different idea of how to live their lives than the pope might imagine for them.”
To be sure, the pope retains strong backing among a small but devout minority of youths – a new and powerful conservative “clerical” movement in the US and Europe. The sex abuse scandal has also brought sympathy for a pope who is viewed as being under attack.
The president of the Catholic chapel at Sciences Po in Paris, Alix Prevost, a French representative at the 2008 youth meeting in Sydney, has “nothing but respect for Benedict.” But as a young Catholic, she says she trusts the church and doesn’t focus on the pope currently in power.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience, and I’ve found a lot of good in the church that doesn’t get mentioned,” she says.
Yet Ms. Prevost disagreed with Pope Benedict’s move to bring ultraconservative Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier, back into the fold. Mr. Williamson has said: “I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, hugely against, 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”