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April 15, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

The Conclave: Who Should It Be?

As the Papal Conclave in Rome draws near, there is fierce speculation as to who will be that Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church to succeed the recently deceased John Paul II. So far, the despairing press has yet to get a peep out of any of the 115 candidates who will enter the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on Monday to begin the discussions and voting that will answer that question.

In an unprecedented move, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Curia’s top official, issued a "gag order" on his fellow "Princes of the Church," silencing them during the full week between the end of John Paul II’s funeral and the beginning of the Conclave. Ratzinger’s name is mentioned among the top ten most likely candidates to be elevated to the throne of St. Peter.

The only utterances out of the mouths of cardinals have been heard in sermons at memorial masses for Pope John Paul II, offered each day by selected Cardinals. In phrases lauding the former Pontiff or speaking of the "Church’s needs," pundits assay each phrase for insights as to what the individual electors, meeting in private, are thinking, and if they have moved towards a consensus for a new Pope.

If you are a betting person, the on-line Irish bookmakers, "Paddy Power," can offer you odds on who will be elected the next Pope. Although they change moment-to-moment in proportion to the strength of the betting for a given cardinal, just five days before the beginning of the conclave, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of France is the odds-on favorite at 4-1. This 79 year-old Archbishop of Paris was born a Jew of Polish parents but raised a Catholic as a result of his parent’s migration to France fleeing Nazi terror and their subsequent deaths at Auswitch.

Paddy’s betting odds, of course, merely reflect popular preferences and may not be a barometer of what is percolating behind the closed doors and tight lips of the cardinals themselves. Theirs is the daunting task of selecting a new pope that can confront the multi-faceted challenges that the Roman Church faces in the new millennium.

Following closely behind Cardinal Lustiger on Paddy’s tote board is Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil at 13-2. He hails from the country with the largest Catholic population in the world. According to a 2003 report by the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has 125 million Catholics – 73% of the population -- although the percentages have fallen sharply since 1970.

Three Cardinals from Spanish-speaking Latin America are also receiving substantial betting support at Paddy’s website. Leading the group are cardinals Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, both at 10-1. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Chile slightly trails at 14-1. Cardinals Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Cuba and Dario Castrillion Hoyos of Colombia are among the Latino "long shots" at 25-1. Cardinals Juan Luis Cipriani of Peru and Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico, are even further back at 33-1.

Those inclined to think that the choice will go to an African candidate can get 15-2 odds for a bet on Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. At age 70, Arinze is conservative on pro-life issues but liberal when it comes to inter-faith dialogue, including openings to Islam by the Catholic Church. Cardinal Ivan Diaz, of India, is listed at 33-1.

If you think that the papacy will go back to an Italian, you can get 7-1 odds on Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Italy, a Jesuit and the ex-Archbishop of Milan, a post held by the former Pope Paul VI. An intellectual and former head of Rome’s Gregorian University, he presently holds a number of Curial offices. The Italian cardinals -- the biggest national group with 20 in the Conclave -- might also choose Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, the current Archbishop of Milan frequently mentioned as papabili (qualified to be Pope). Paddy Power has him at 16-1 and the other Italian Cardinals are "long shots," none rating better than 30-1.

If you favor a continuation of Pope Paul II’s strict dogmatic orthodoxy you can get 7-1 on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. Ratzinger, 78, had very close ties with the late Pope and leads the Vatican office that enforces church doctrine. It was he who celebrated the funeral mass for Pope John Paul II. Other non-Italian European cardinals who are drawing interest among bettors are Keith O. Brien of Scotland and Jose Da Cruz Policarpo of Portugal who are both running at 20-1 odds. Cardinal Count Christoph Von Schoenborn of Austria is resting at 33-1 odds.

Since the time when the late Pope assumed leadership of the Church, Roman Catholicism is perceived as a world-wide religion with diverse cultural and geopolitical settings for its adherents. A Brazilian Catholic, for example, must see the practice of faith differently than does a Thai, French or Nigerian worshiper. This phenomenon requires a more diffused style of governance, wherein local Bishops and pastors have great autonomy, currently not the case in the Catholic Church. In fact, the opposite trend has been occurring since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s were promulgated, envisioning a church in which holiness flowed from "The People of God" upward to its leadership.

As much as Pope John Paul II traveled among his flock, often giving them inspiration and hope, his legacy is that of an authoritarian, often scolding and silencing Catholic leaders inattentive to his wishes. Additionally, he placed like-minded bishops and cardinals in positions of authority during his long papacy. It is said that in the early days of his papacy he listened to and dialogued with his bishops on their required visits to Rome but that, in later years, he lectured them. To support this top-down style of governance, he created a Curial bureaucracy arguably with more authority than at any time since the days of the Inquisition. Only three of the cardinals participating in the Conclave were elevated by a pope other than John Paul II.

As speculation mounts as to who will be the new successor to St. Peter, most public discussion tends to lump the cardinals into categories, regional and occupational.

Into the "occupational" grouping are those cardinals who are current Curial office holders and/or close confidents of the late pope. They cut across all regional classifications but have in common their participation in the wide-ranging policies and promulgations of Pope John Paul II and, in many cases, are defensive of them. A selection from this group of cardinals would predict a pope that would uphold, and project into the future, the ecclesiastical viewpoints – and perhaps even the style – of their former mentor.

Seen in the regional analysis is a prediction of the leadership style that a selected cardinal is likely to display during his papacy. It is argued that a "third-world" pope – regions including Africa, Asia and Latin America – would paint a very different face for the Church and would encourage more diverse policies than presently emanating from Rome. Since it is in these regions of the world that the Church is most growing in numbers, and since the local traditions and culture are so much intertwined with religious practice, many think that the time is right for a pope that would bring these considerations into the discipline of the Universal Church.

The selection of a European – other than an Italian – or a North American cardinal is seen as one that would bring on a rigorous philosophical and theological debate within the Church, confronting the growing secularism and materialism that has seen church attendance drop and religious discipline ignored throughout the world, but especially in those regions. It is remembered that the late pope was rebuffed in his attempt to suggest to the authors of the new "European Constitution" that the region be described as "Christian." The site of early Christian expansion now sees itself as religiously diverse and secular.

An Italian pope – one not associated with the Vatican bureaucracy – is envisioned as one who would settle down the Church for a period of time, allowing it to digest the tumultuous time since the Second Vatican Council and the papacies of four very different men. A time of analysis and careful consideration it is felt, is the best prescription for a Church that, while it is growing and expanding, is threatened and embattled in many areas and on many issues.

The shoes of the late Pope, Karol Wojtyla, will be a challenge for any man to fill. He was the first non-Italian European to have become pope in half a millennium and he brought to Rome a prodigious intellect and unique style. His enthusiasm and vigor were infectious. He was a theologian, a poet, a linguist and a churchman who had led his flock under hostile and dangerous conditions. Few could have predicted that the last Conclave would have produced such a choice, but, to the surprise of all, it did.

What surprises are yet in store for Catholics and the world?

Taking into consideration your own aspirations for the Catholic Church in the coming decades, from what category would you prefer to see the next pope emerge?

Please vote above!

This Week's Question:

Taking into consideration your own aspirations for the Catholic Church in the coming decades, from what category would you prefer to see the next pope emerge?

US . Residents
. PR
A third world pope

16% An Italian pope

22% A European pope

10% A Curial pope



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