Andrea Hopkins’ favorite moment of the school assembly with Archbishop William E. Lori was a question from one of the younger students.
“How was God formed?” a very young student asked in the packed assembly hall at St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick, where 584 pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade students attend.
The archbishop of the nation’s oldest Catholic archdiocese handled the question with aplomb.
“God always was, is, and will be,” Lori answered. “That is what makes God different.”
“I thought he answered it well,” said Hopkins, an eighth-grader.
Many of the questions from the students at the school assembly regarded the unexpected announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would retire at the end of the month. He is the first Roman Catholic Church pope to step down since 1415 instead of dying in office.
As archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Lori — who took the office about 10 months ago after previously serving as a bishop in Connecticut — oversees the Catholic churches in Baltimore and nine Maryland counties, as well as parishes in Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.
About 25 percent of Maryland’s population is Roman Catholic, a higher percentage than any single Protestant denomination in the state.
The new pope will be selected by the cardinals convening at the Vatican in Rome.
In an interview before the assembly, Lori said he did not know who the cardinals would select.
“That’s pretty far above my pay grade,” Lori said.
At the assembly, one of the students asked Lori if he would want to be pope.
“I’m very, very happy to be the archbishop of Baltimore,” said Lori, a former seminary student at Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg.
At the beginning of the assembly, Lori said he realized that in Frederick County the students probably had “divided loyalties.”
He asked students who were fans of the Baltimore Ravens to raise their hands and slightly more than half of them did.
Then he asked how many were fans of the Washington Redskins and almost as many students shot their hands up.
“OK, you all have to leave,” the archbishop quipped.
“Since I’ve come here, the Orioles had a winning season, and the Ravens won the Super Bowl,” Lori said.
The archbishop was funnier than she expected, said Andrea, 13, an eighth-grader.
“He was easy to relate to,” she said.
“I liked getting to know the archbishop,” said Sammie Gallo, 13, also an eighth-grader from Frederick. “I could actually comprehend what he was saying.”
“Getting to know his personality is pretty cool,” said Josh Keller, 14, of Frederick.