The Catholic population, which totals more than 1 billion people worldwide, suffered a great loss this weekend when Pope John Paul II died Saturday afternoon.
In Lubbock, news of the pope's ailing health spread quickly. Local churches and a large number of worshippers came out to pray for both their leader and the process of selecting a new pope.
According to Associated Press reports, the pope suffered from Parkinson's disease, among other ailments, including a urinary tract infection that led to a high fever and unstable blood pressure in the last days of his life.
In many local Catholic churches, pictures of the pope were displayed, allowing people a visual to go along with their internal grief.
Bobby Hiracheta, a member of the Student Advisory Board at St. Elizabeth's University Parish, said he is among the mourners, but realizes this is a time of commemoration.
"It's so sad – a big loss," he said. "But feelings range from sadness to relief. In the Catholic Church, it is more of a celebration of his life."
Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla and elected to the papacy Oct. 16, 1978. He was the first non-Italian pope chosen in 455 years and the most traveled pope in history. He succeeded Pope John Paul I, who died after only 33 days in the papacy.
Reinard Diolola, a junior pre-medicine and pre-nursing major from Odessa, said he believes although the pope has died, his legacy will live on.
"I think everyone is in mourning right now; we lost a great leader," he said. "He was known as John Paul II, but he will be remembered by many as John Paul the Great."
Diolola said he believes the pope touched many people during his lifetime and will continue to do so in death. He said he has continuing faith in the Catholic Church and the cardinals to elect a new pope.
"A lot of youth have shown up and mourned for the pope," he said. "He was a significant figure who touched everyone's lives."
Hiracheta said he believes the process of electing a new pope will be beneficial to people throughout the world.
"It will be an enormous learning experience for the non-Catholic church," he said. "Spirituality is very big in the world now because of the amount of tragedy and suffering we see."
Hiracheta said he looks forward to the election of a new pope and believes he will have big shoes to fill, especially with young people, because of the profound way in which they were drawn to the late pope.
"Catholics will look towards him as an enormous leader," he said. "He will also be there for people with a need for direction."
Jessica Matis said she was not brought up Catholic, and has not raised her family in Catholicism, but said the loss was great for all people.
"It's always sad when someone dies," she said. "Since I'm not Catholic, it didn't really hurt me the way it did other people."
Matis said she believes the global impact of the pope's death will be of a large scale, and she anticipates the election of a new pope.
"I think it will take a greater toll on the world, because it is more centered around Catholicism, our country is more diversified," she said. "I think (the electing of a new pope) should be an interesting process, despite the unfortunate situation."
According to the Catholic Pages Web site, the Cardinals of the Catholic Church will hold a conclave in order to elect a new pope. The dates are outlined, but not yet set. The conclave is set to begin no fewer than 15 days after the death of the pope, but no more than 20 days following his death.
The process, held in the Sistine Chapel, is more or less a period of lockdown for the College of Cardinals. During the conclave the Cardinals – as of April there were 117 – vow complete secrecy while voting and deliberating on a new pope.
The voting cannot be complete until either a two-thirds majority is met or, under a new rule introduced by Pope John Paul II, allows a simple majority if the election process is deadlocked after 13 days. If a group of persistent Cardinals are confident enough in one candidate, this could ultimately lead to his election.
The symbolic process can take a substantial amount of time and at least in the first 13 days, a large amount of votes will likely be taken. As spectators gather around the chapel to see who will be the new pope, they are informed of the conclusion of each vote by the burning of all the ballots emitting a cloud of smoke. If the smoke is black, the result is inconclusive, but if it is white, the new leader of the Catholic Church has been elected successfully.
Once a new pope has been chosen, he will, if already a bishop, immediately take office, or if not already a bishop, be ordained before taking office. He then chooses the new name by which he will be called and goes through several internal procedures before being presented and walking out on a main balcony to greet his people and say his first blessing.
For more information on Catholicism or the process for electing a new pope, visit the Catholic Pages Web site at catholic-pages.com.