Dear Editor:

While reading Tom Purcell's March 5 article in the TIMES NEWS regarding the election of the Catholic Church's new Pope I found I became increasingly upset and insulted the more I read.

The election of a pope is not the same as electing a political leader since the new pope will be the leader of souls and neither the pope, nor the process of his selection, should be treated in such a disparaging manner.

Perhaps Mr. Purcell thought he was "cute" or "clever" with his comments, but in all reality he was making fun of the coming papal election and the entire Catholic Church, including me.

To use statements like "Gregory XII stepped down to head off on a hot weekend with his brother-in-law's sister's seamstress' pool boy" or "What does he do now? Write a book? A little consulting for some downtrodden cult?" or "It might be a bit embarrassing should the former Vicar of Christ ever decide to step out on a date" was not cute and not clever. It was insulting and uncalled for!

The new pope will be the spiritual leader of one billion Catholics around the world.

Catholics who, following in the footsteps of Christ, have given their time and their talents to assist thousands of people on every continent through charitable institutions including schools, hospitals, retirement homes, and homes for handicapped people. We pray for the cardinals who are faced with the task of finding the best man to lead the Catholic Church.

I'm sure Mr. Purcell would never write a piece like this about the election of a leader of any other religion. Mr. Purcell and the TIMES NEWS owe Catholics and the Catholic Church a full apology.

Sincerely yours,

Betty Lou McBride

Jim Thorpe