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Changes in modern world alter papal influence

Religious scholars discuss the relevancy of the papacy in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign.
BY RACHEL ZOLL Published: February 16, 2013

Technology's effect

The rise in technology has been a double-edged sword for the church. Young people trying to decide whether to remain Catholic have access to more arguments than ever about why they should leave. At the same time, technology has built a greater intimacy between the pontiff and the public.

Compared to many evangelical groups, the Catholic Church was slower to take advantage of the Internet. But the pope is now on Twitter.

“They have a backstage pass to the Vatican,” said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna research group and author of “You Lost Me” and other books about young Christians and religion.

Oldest institution

Mark Noll, a scholar of evangelical history at the University of Notre Dame, argued it would be wrong to view the papacy as weakened because of the challenges before the church. Given the splits within Protestantism and among secular-minded people, few leaders have the platform a pope does.

“The papacy remains the world's oldest continual functioning institution,” Noll said.