Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook--Today's Conclave stories

Today's harvest of conclave reporting. Again, a good article from John Allen talking about the rise of the Ratzinger candidacy, and then followed by one from a new source I tripped across--an Italian writer and Vatican watcher of the progressivist sort by the name of Sandro Magister, which, I'm sad to say, is a much cooler name than mine.

Feeling a lot better as I'm going into the evening: glad that the latest infection bout seems to be winding up. I lost two days to it, including what was likely a killer seminar from Fr. David Coffey on Wednesday on "D," the anonymous defender of Henri de Lubac's from the Nouvelle théologie controversy.

Anyway, conclave talk follows.

Handicapping the conclave

Push for Ratzinger is real

By John L. Allen Jr.

Italian newspapers, like nature, abhor a vacuum, and hence in reaction to the press blackout imposed this week by the College of Cardinals, all manner of speculation and rumor has been appearing in the local press. One day Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II, is touted as a leading contender to be the next pope; the next day, the old “Great White Hope” of the church’s liberal wing, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, is the hot tip.

Much of this, despite the oblique hints dropped by some journalists of “deep throat” sources, is built on little more than guesswork. Journalists who cover the Vatican on a regular basis may occasionally succeed in connecting with cardinals they know especially well, but even in those cases, their comments may be motivated by the desire to float trial balloons or block certain candidates. In addition, it’s often unclear to what extent they speak for anyone but themselves, so journalists may be tempted to spot “trends” on the basis of two or three chance encounters.

Given all that, what can be said with some degree of certainty about the behind-the-scenes politics heading into the conclave that opens on Monday?

First, the push for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope’s doctrinal czar for 24 years and the dean of the College of Cardinals, is for real. There is a strong basis of support for Ratzinger in the college, and his performance in the period following the death of the pope, especially his eloquent homily at the funeral Mass, seems to have further cemented that support. One Vatican official who has worked with Ratzinger over the years said on April 13, “I am absolutely sure that Ratzinger will be the next pope.”

On the other hand, several cardinals have said privately that they’re uncomfortable with the prospect of a Ratzinger papacy. It’s not just that some don’t believe his strong emphasis on the protection of Christian identity in a secular world ought to be the guiding light of the next papacy, but there’s also a real-world concern about the election of a figure with his “baggage.” Fairly or unfairly, Ratzinger is to some extent a lightning rod for Catholic opinion, and in a church that’s already divided, some cardinals worry about exacerbating those divisions. One said April 12: “I’m not sure how I would explain this back home.”

If Ratzinger’s candidacy stalls before reaching a two-thirds majority, meaning 77 out of the 115 votes in this conclave, the question then becomes, who might step in as an alternative?

Here there simply seems to be no consensus as yet, even among the cardinals themselves. Several names are mentioned. Among the pro-Ratzinger forces, acceptable alternatives might include Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, Christoph Schönborn of Austria, Angelo Scola of Venice, or even Ivan Dias of India For cardinals more interested in church reform or a pro-social justice agenda, figures such as Claudio Hummes or Geraldo Majella Agnelo, both of Brazil, seem plausible. Alternatively, if a pastoral, moderate Italian emerges as a compromise candidate, men such as Severino Poletto or Ennio Antonelli might be strong runners.

As of this writing, however, the cardinals appear not yet to have settled on any one of these figures as a consensus choice, and hence the situation seems to be still quite fluid.

One other point that can be made with some assurance: the cardinals do not seem interested in a long, protracted conclave. Some have speculated about just such a scenario, given that Ratzinger could plausibly command a simple majority in the conclave (58 votes out of 115) but not two-thirds, in which case that majority might be tempted to simply stick it out through 30 ballots and then, under rules approved by John Paul II, choose, by a simple majority, to elect the pope by a simple majority. In addition, of course, the cardinals will enjoy much greater physical comfort this time around, with two-room suites in the Domus Santa Marta and the capacity to take walks in the Vatican Gardens. That reality, some people believe, might reduce their sense of urgency.

In fact, however, most cardinals who are talking on background in these days say that such scenarios are unlikely. One cardinal put it this way April 10 – the conclave should be neither too short nor too long. Too short, and it looks like they rushed to judgment; too long, and it looks like they’re divided, and that the pope is being elected by a faction rather than a genuine consensus inspired by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, this cardinal said, two-and-a-half to four days would feel about right.

Of course, what makes all this riveting is that the game is played when the teams take the field, and not before. Most forecasts published in the meantime are simply sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Progressives, Moderates, Neocons: Notes Before the Conclave

On one side, Ratzinger, Ruini, Bergoglio, Scola with their proposal for a new “Papal Revolution.” On the other side, the list of their opponents, with Tettamanzi as the man for all seasons

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, April 14, 2005 – On Tuesday, April 19, the first full day of the conclave which will elect the new pope, the feast in the calendar of the Roman Church is that of Saint Leo IX. He was pope between 1049 and 1054. He was a standard bearer of the great “Papal Revolution” which, at the beginning of the second millennium, between the 11th and 12th centuries, refashioned the Church and the West. He was German.

And the indisputable front runner in this conclave at the beginning of the third millennium is also German – but above all, he is “Roman.” He is Joseph Ratzinger, and he will turn 78 on April 16. The morning of Monday the 18th, he will be the one presiding over the “missa pro eligendo romano pontifice” at Saint Peter’s. And during the first secret ballot on Monday afternoon, he is expected to receive numerous votes of consensus and esteem, certainly several dozen at least. The quorum necessary to be elected, with 115 cardinals present, is 77 votes. At the tally, Ratzinger and the other cardinals will be watching and judging. They will be standing beneath the terrible gaze of a Judge infinitely higher than they are, the Christ painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

But the proposal that Ratzinger and his party have presented to the cardinal electors is also fearsome and demanding. They want “a Church that is not folded in upon itself, not timid, not lacking in trust, a Church burning with the love of Christ for the salvation of all men,” as Cardinal Camillo Ruini said in a homily at a Saint Peter’s basilica overflowing with crowds, two days after the funeral for John Paul II.

During the last few months Ruini has been, together with Ratzinger, the most active and explicit in defining the scenario of the new pontificate. And many leading cardinals have taken their side, some of them likely candidates for the papacy themselves. In the curia there is German cardinal Walter Kasper, one of Ratzinger and Ruini’s scholarly colleagues since the three were simple theology professors. In Latin America, there is the Argentine of Italian origin Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. In the United States, there is Francis E. George, archbishop of Chicago. In Canada, there is Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Québec. In Australia, there is George Pell, archbishop of Sydney. In Eastern Europe there is Józef Glemp, archbishop of Warsaw. In Italy, there are Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, and Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna. This is the framework for the neoconservative party whose beacon is Ratzinger. Another group of cardinals that has recently drawn closer to this party is the circle of cardinals who are friends of Opus Dei, led by the two who are members of Opus: in the Vatican, Julián Herranz, the leading authority on canon law in the curia, and in Latin America, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima.

The power of the neoconservatives essentially consists in their program. They want a resumption of the active management of the Church’s ordinary governance, its cleansing from “filthiness,” a reinforcement of the doctrinal and moral formation of the clergy, a renewal of basic evangelization and the teaching of the catechism, a qualitative improvement in the celebration of the liturgy, a new missionary campaign.

But it is above all from the perspective of the Church “ad extra” that their program distinguishes itself. The most fearsome conflict of the next decades, Ratzinger and Ruini have both said on numerous occasions, will not be that between the Church and Islam, but rather the cultural conflict between the Church and “the radical emancipation of man from God and from the roots of life,” which characterizes contemporary Western culture and which “leads in the end to the destruction of freedom.” For the neoconservative cardinals, the Church’s commitment to this clash centered in the West must be given absolute priority in the next pontificate.

Their scenario has three other corollaries. The first that the Church will not fight alone in this epochal conflict, but will look for and find allies even in secularist currents of thought far removed from Catholicism; for example, in those represented by Francis Fukuyama and Jürgen Habermas, the two authors cited most frequently by Ratzinger and Ruini of late.

The second corollary concerns the visibility of the Church. In the wake of John Paul II, the neoconservatives do not want the Church simply to speak privately to consciences, but to act as a guiding social force at the center of the public arena.

The third regards the very essence of the Church. In his last conference before the death of pope Karol Wojtyla, which he gave on April 1 in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger harshly criticized those who “reduce the core of Jesus’s message, the kingdom of God, to the buzzwords of political moralism.” Because in this way, “God is forgotten, and in his place there are only words that are easily turned to any sort of misuse.”

No one in the college of cardinals has presented a complete alternative project alongside the neoconservatives’ program. But there is no lack of serious objections and resistance, and at the beginning of the conclave this will be turned into votes in favor of other candidates.

* * *

In the area conventionally defined as progressivist, these objections are of two kinds, each with its supporters.

The first objection contests the priority the neoconservatives give to the confrontation between the Church and secular culture over the vision of man and life.

Cardinals like Cláudio Hummes, archbishop of San Paolo in Brazil, and Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, maintain that such a priority is too restricted to the Western context, and want the Church to give first place instead to the commitment for justice, peace, and the protection of creation.

Both Hummes and Rodriguez Maradiaga have long proposed themselves as candidates for the papacy. The first of these read on March 16 in the Vatican, at a conference on “Gaudium et Spes,” a speech that was interpreted as an act of autoinvestiture, the central thesis of which was that “the priority of a servant Church must be solidarity with the poor.” The second of these has had the benefit of a heavy barrage of media coverage. But both of them come to the conclave with few certain supporters.

The second objection is typically liberal. It proposes a making the Church more democratic internally (see the following article) and a greater relationship of “sharing” with the culture and custom widespread in the West. It calls for new solutions on priestly celibacy, women’s roles, communion for divorced persons who have remarried. It invokes more ecumenism. It is mistrustful of an excessively visible and public Church, and prefers a more interior and discreet Christian life.

The cardinals in favor of this approach include Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Brussels, Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, Keith Michael P. O’Brien, archbishop of Edinburgh, and Stephen Fumio Hamao, a Japanese cardinal working in the curia. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini can also be assigned to this current, and was its preferred papal candidate for many years. But only in effigy. This current has no chance of imposing itself on the conclave.

* * *

But the third and last current, that of the moderates, does have a real possibility of success.

Among its most visible exponents are the cardinals of the curia Angelo Sodano, Giovanni Battista Re, and Crescenzio Sepe, who are rivals among themselves for many reasons, but are united in creating resistance and disruption against the project of Ratzinger and the neoconservatives.

In the days immediately following the death of John Paul II, while the cardinals were gradually arriving in Rome, these three went into a frenetic lobbying effort with the help of other members of the curia who are unable to enter the conclave because they are over 80 years of age, but are also very active: Achille Silvestrini and Pio Laghi.

Neither Sodano, nor Re, nor Sepe can entertain the illusion of having a chance of being elected. But the handful of votes that each of them controls could raise the chances of the only identifiable real candidate in the swampland of the moderates: Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan. The affiliates of the Community of Saint Egidio have also moved into action on Tettamanzi’s behalf. They are very adept at influencing the third rank of cardinals, and especially the Italian and international press, a modern substitute for the power of pressure and veto that was once the prerogative of kings.

Tettamanzi was a high flyer years ago as an expert in bioethics. He helped John Paul II to write speeches and encyclicals in defense of unborn life. But now that these topics have become more crucial than ever in the United States, Europe, and Italy, both inside and outside of the Church, a real “epochal question” in Ratzinger and Ruini’s judgment, he doesn’t talk about them anymore. And instead, he produces the requisite mountains of fluff against globalization, neoliberalism, and media domination.

If elected, he will be hailed as the most progressivist pope possible, an incomparable defender of the status quo.


The Dream, and the Reality, of a More “Collegial” Church

Among John Paul II’s projects, there is one that remains uncompleted. So uncompleted that the only thing he left about it is a title: “To find a form of exercising the papal that, while in no way renouncing the essence of its mission, will be open to a new situation.” This is what it says in the 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint.” Never another word.

But the cardinals who will name his successor are producing a number of words on the topic. Progressivists, moderates, neocons, all are convinced that John Paul II took the principle of papal primacy too far, and that this principle must be balanced by an extension of the bishops’ power.

“It was indispensable that there be a strong pope. Now it is important that we have a strong pope together with a strong episcopacy. It is a question of balance,” Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Brussels, the ensign of the progressivist current, said a few days ago.

But Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a brainiac of the neocons, had maintained the same idea before him, on repeated occasions.

Each cardinal brings the most different reasons possible in support of the balancing of papal primacy. For many, this is the obligatory means for making peace with the Churches separated from Rome, both Protestant and Orthodox. For others, this is the only way the Church can get in step with the times: with less monarchy and more internal democracy. Still others simply cannot endure the overweening power of the Roman curia.

It remains to be seen how far the victorious current will be able to go in the encounter that will decide the outcome of the conclave. It will certainly not go so far as the “dream” of a democratic Church as enunciated by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in a memorable address to the synod of bishops in 1999.

Martini then “removed himself from the fray,” according to his stated intentions. Only once during the last year has he broken his silence and returned to the idea of a “permanent council that would rule the Church together with the pope.” But on the eve of the conclave, at the general congregation of the cardinals on April 11, he again intervened to call for more collegiality.

This is an idea that has been brought out on the eve of all the preceding conclaves of the last half century.

In 1962, the “annus mirabilis” of the opening of Vatican Council II, calls for a radical democratic revolution in the Church came from young Swiss theologian Hans Küng, destined for a brilliant profession as a dissident. He made his appeals in a large volume entitled “Structures of the Church,” and the ideas he expressed in the book fed a growing series of attacks against the popes who were elected after this, from Paul VI to John Paul II: the latter of these was the target of yet another of Küng’s countless denunciations last March 26, seven days before his death.

In 1978, the year of the two papal elections of Albino Luciani and Karol Wojtyla, the pressure for a democratic rebalancing of the Church’s governance became even stronger.

At the vigil of both conclaves, the cardinals received privately a packet in which they found a detailed program for reforming the papacy. It had been written and delivered by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and his disciples of the study group he founded in Bologna, with professor Giuseppe Alberigo foremost among these. The document began with a very pessimistic view of the present state of the Church, “increasingly more inadequate to the needs of the life of men.” And in seven points it enunciated what the new pontiff must do to put an end to the papacy-as-monarchy.

The sixth point was entitled “The first hundred days,” and it went into even greater detail.

During the crucial opening phase, the newly elected pope was supposed to dismiss his vicar and dedicate himself personally to the diocese of Rome; to create a collegial body of a dozen bishops and cardinals to meet two times a week and make the most important decisions together; to endow with “real and proper legislative capacities” the worldwide synod of bishops, and convene the group twice a year; to scale down drastically the Vatican curia; to have new bishops elected by the “ecclesial communities concerned”; to abolish the apostolic nunciatures and cut off relations with states “as a power among powers”; to prepare the convocation of a new ecumenical council involving all the Christian confessions; to free himself from the residual “monarchical symbols of power and authority,” beginning with the “trappings of the papacy like the residence, garments, titles, secrecy, etcetera.”

John Paul II didn’t do a bit of this, neither during his first hundred days nor during the following twenty-six years of his pontificates. Nor would he ever have accomplished the gestures for which he has passed into history (from the meetings in Assisi to the “mea culpas”) if he had entrusted them to the collegial decision of cardinals who, for the most part, disagreed with him.

But meanwhile, some of the proposals contained in that program of the first hundred days have found supporters, not only among the Catholic intellectuals of the opposition, but also among bishops and cardinals. Apart from Martini, the living cardinals most clearly supportive of such theses are Japanese cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao and Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, of Scotland. The most battle-hardened supporter among the bishops is John Raphael Quinn, archbishop emeritus of San Francisco, author of a book entitled “The Reform of the Papacy.”

In the present conclave, these proposals for the radical democratization of the Church are, in any case, shared by a tiny minority. The Bologna center of studies has recently tried to fire up support again with two books. The first, written by historian Alberto Melloni and entitled “Mother Church, Church Stepmother,” maintained that the papacy and the Church of Rome find themselves today in the same critical state in which they found themselves in 1978. And the second book, written by a group of authors and dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the Bologna study “workshop,” published in its entirety for the first time the document delivered in 1978 to the cardinals taking part in the two conclaves that year, ideally relaunching it as a program for the Church of tomorrow. In the conviction that, sooner or later, the “dream” will come true.


A synopsis on six names, in alphabetical order

JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO. Archbishop of Buenos Aires, 69 years of age, born in Argentina to parents who had emigrated from the Italian region of Piemonte. Since 2002 he has continually been the Latin American cardinal with the best probability of being elected, in spite of never having lifted a finger to present himself as a candidate: in the conclave, it is Ratzinger’s party that would launch his candidacy. As a bishop, instead of sermons on social justice he preached to the Argentines in the thick of economic disaster that they should put into practice the ten commandments and the Gospel beatitudes.

CLÁUDIO HUMMES. Archbishop of San Paolo in Brazil, 71 years old. As a young bishop, he got himself mixed up in the struggles of laborers and farmers. He then espoused more moderate principles, became close to the charismatics, and was promoted to the largest diocese in Brazil. Lately he has again advanced proposals for social justice and has gained the public support of his friend, president Luiz Inácio da Silva Lula. He is the progresssivist alternative to the neoconservative Bergoglio, in the case in which the conclave would opt for a Latin American. But when he was called to the Vatican to preach at the Lenten retreat for the pope and the curia, he ended up boring everybody.

JOSEPH RATZINGER. A German, he was the pillar of doctrine during the pontificate of John Paul II, especially toward the very end. In spite of the fact that he is 78 years old, there would be nothing of the short-term papacy about his election: the scenario he has designated for the Church during the following decades is almost revolutionary, and has won him respect and agreement from beyond the neocon cardinals closest to him, but also strong resistance. If he is chosen, the team he selects will be important: he has never shown great skill in the practical matters of governance.

CAMILLO RUINI. Vicar of the diocese of Rome and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, 74 years old. Unlike Ratzinger, to whom he is very close intellectually, he excels for his ability to command. In the autumn of 2003 he was the one who filled the gap left in regard to Iraq and the Middle East by a confused and uncertain Vatican secretariat of state: the turning point was his homily for the Italian soldiers killed in Nassiriya. As head of the Italian bishops’ conference, he gave the Church unprecedented public prominence in Italy. He has rarely appeared in the current lists of candidates for the papacy.

ANGELO SCOLA. Patriarch of Venice, 64 years old. He is the youngest and least experienced of the papal candidates in the party of Ratzinger and Ruini. He was the star pupil of Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, and one of the model students of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a theological giant of the second half of the twentieth century, together with two of the other most recently appointed cardinals, Philippe Barbarin of France and Marc Ouellet of French Canada. He has created an institute of higher study in Venice, the Marcianum, and founded a magazine published in multiple languages, including Arabic and Urdu, “Oasis,” as a bridge to the East and in order to favor, not a clash, but a “hybrid of civilizations.”

DIONIGI TETTAMANZI. Archbishop of Milan, 71 years of age. He is the only Italian cardinal outside of the curia who has campaigned to be the pope. But his chances of being elected depend upon the defeat of the neoconservative party of Ratzinger, Ruini, Bergoglio, Scola, etc. at the conclave. And they presuppose that he would receive the votes of the Latin American progressivists, the European liberals, the circles in the curia represented by Sodano and Re, and other cardinals influenced by the Community of Saint Egidio and Focolare. Tettamanzi would need to satisfy all of them, as the master of compromise that he is.


For more information on the program of the neocon cardinals, see on this site:

> After Wojtyla: A “Papal Revolution” for the Third Millennium (7.4.2005)

> The Pope and His Two Consuls (30.3.2005)

The complete text of the memorandum on “The first hundred days” of the pontificate, delivered to the cardinals before the two conclaves of 1978:

> Goodbye, King Pope. The Progressivists' Plan at the Conclave (3.1.2005)


English translation by Matthew Sherry: >

Go to the English home page of >, to access the latest articles and links to other resources.

Sandro Magister’s e-mail address is

Cardinals Draw Lots for Hotel Rooms

Apr 14, 7:18 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Cardinals drew lots Thursday for rooms at the Vatican hotel where they'll be staying during the conclave and heard a speech on the problems of the church and who might be best to lead it as they continued preparations for Monday's vote.

The preacher of the papal household, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, delivered the speech during a pre-conclave meeting, the 10th that the College of Cardinals has had since Pope John Paul II died April 2, said a statement from Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The text of the speech wasn't released. Navarro-Valls said only that the meditation concerned "the problems of the church and the enlightened choice of the new pontiff."

In other business, the cardinals drew lots for room assignments at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the hotel John Paul had built to house the papal electors to spare them the discomfort of the Apostolic Palace, where cardinals were housed in previous conclaves.

Some of the rooms have stunning views of St. Peter's dome, and all are located within the tall walls of Vatican City.

The cardinals had selected Cantalamessa to deliver the meditation, one of two the 115 red-hatted princes of the church will hear before they begin to vote. The other one will be delivered on Monday by Czech Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, who is 85 and not one of the papal electors.

Cantalamessa had a prominent role during Holy Week, when John Paul was unable to attend services because of his increasingly frail health. He delivered the homily during an afternoon meditation service on Good Friday, ending it with a prayer that the pope recover quickly.

"Come back soon, Holy Father," he said. "Easter isn't Easter without you."

The daily Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in John Paul's memory had a different sound Thursday, as the music of the Eastern rites replaced the usual Latin Gregorian chants in a service celebrated by Pierre Sfeir Nasrallah, the patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites.

Nasrallah, who is from Lebanon, praised the late pontiff for tirelessly promoting dialogue between Christians of different denominations and between Christians and Muslims.

"His courageous stance in favor of peace in the Arab gulf and in Iraq cannot be forgotten," said Nasrallah.

Meanwhile, pilgrims continued to pay their respects before John Paul's tomb, located in the renovated grotto underneath the basilica, and to snap up "vacant see" stamps at the Vatican post office - which are good only until the cardinals elect a new pope.

The cardinals have been holding daily meetings to map out details of the conclave and also discuss the needs of the church in the future. While their deliberations are supposed to be secret, some details have been leaking out in the Italian media, which is rife with speculation about who is emerging as a potential papal candidate.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, responsible for maintaining a hard-line on conservative doctrinal orthodoxy during John Paul's reign, remained a favorite, but others were emerging too, news reports said Thursday.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of England, at top center, looks on with other cardinals after the General Congregation of Cardinals at the Vatican, Thursday April 14, 2005. Cardinals met again Thursday to plan next week's conclave, a secret vote that will elect the next Roman Catholic pontiff. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Cardinals Hear Meditation on Church and World

Father Cantalamessa Delivers Talk

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2005 ( Father Raniero Cantalamessa, until recently the preacher to the Pontifical Household, led a meditation for cardinals on "the problems of the Church and the enlightened choice of the new Pontiff."

The Capuchin's talk today to the cardinals preparing for the conclave was in accord with the 1996 apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis" (UDG). That document spells out norms for when the Apostolic See is vacant and for the election of a new pope.

No. 13 of UDG establishes that, in the general congregations held by the cardinals before the conclave, the task of delivering meditations on the state of the Church and the world must be entrusted "to two ecclesiastics known for their sound doctrine, wisdom and moral authority."

The next meditation will be given Monday, the day the conclave begins. Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, 85, a non-elector, will deliver that meditation.

After the meditation led by Father Cantalamessa, "the cardinals dedicated a period of time to silence and prayer," according to a press statement published by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.

In all, 142 cardinal electors and non-electors attended the general congregation this morning, the 10th since the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2.

During the meeting, after drawing lots, the three new assistant cardinals were named who, with the chamberlain, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, make up the Particular Congregation for three days. The Particular Congregation handles ordinary affairs of the Apostolic See.

The three new assistant cardinals are Giovanni Battista Re, until the Pope's death the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and Crescenzio Sepe, until now prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples.

Navarro Valls also disclosed that lots were drawn for the assignments of the rooms the cardinals will occupy during the conclave in Domus Sanctae Marthae, the guesthouse within the Vatican walls.

It is expected that 115 cardinals will take part in the conclave.

"Following several clarifications on the interpretation of the apostolic constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis,' the cardinals resumed an exchange of ideas on the situation of the Church and the world," reported Navarro Valls.

The debates taking place in these congregations are not being made public.

Given that last Saturday the cardinals decided by unanimity not to grant interviews, recent press reports about the votes that cardinals might receive in the conclave, are based on journalistic guesswork.

Cardinals From the Americas Closely Tied

Apr 14, 4:55 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - In the largest conclave ever, North American and Latin American cardinals have at least one advantage: Through years of regional meetings and joint projects, many developed personal relationships and discussed each others' concerns.

While no one expects these cardinals to vote in a regional bloc, their ties could be a factor in the coalition building that is part of any papal election.

"Often enough, when voting, they're not necessarily thinking about it in ideological terms - this man is liberal, this man is conservative. They're thinking, 'How well do I know this man?'" said James Hitchcock, an expert in church history at St. Louis University.

Together, cardinals from the Americas comprise 34 of the 115 men who will vote in the conclave, set to begin Monday.

No U.S. cardinals are considered candidates, but several Latin Americans are being mentioned as the potential first pope from the Third World. They include Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga.

"The real wild card here is Latin America," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America and an expert on the Vatican.

"There's no one that really is standing out as a possible candidate from Latin America but you don't know how things will develop as the days go by and they may coalesce around someone. If the Latin Americans were united behind someone it could be a very significant block of votes," he added.

The cardinals' connections across the Americas take on added significance in a conclave where few electors know each other well.

For years, representatives of the bishops' conferences from both continents have met annually, most recently two months ago in Colombia, to discuss issues ranging from ecumenism to immigration. And in 1997, Pope John Paul II convened a special synod of the Americas, which brought together cardinals, bishops and priests, to prod them to cooperate further.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had formed its special committee on Latin America long before it created similar panels on Eastern Europe and Africa. Also, several U.S. cardinals speak Spanish well, including Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and Chicago Cardinal Francis George.

This proficiency will be key in conclave maneuvering, since cardinals tend to group by language or nationality.

"There is a unique connection," said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the U.S. bishops who attended the recent meeting in Bogota. "There's nothing like these face-to-face meetings and conversations for people to get to know each other."

The links between the two continents go beyond official gatherings.

More and more Latin American priests are serving in U.S. parishes, ministering to the surging number of Hispanic immigrants and shoring up the dwindling ranks of North American priests. It is also common for individual U.S. parishes to form partnerships with churches in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 over his role in the clergy sex abuse crisis, speaks Spanish fluently and has maintained close relations with Latin American church leaders despite his troubles.

"These people know each other already. They've talked about issues together, they mostly know what their concerns are," Reese said.

Yet, while the cardinals understand each other, they may disagree on what issues should be paramount in the next papacy. Reese said the Latin Americans, who have seen evangelicals lure away parishioners partly by condemning Catholicism, may have less enthusiasm for taking on the ecumenical work U.S. cardinals believe is required of a pope.

Of course, the North American-Latin American cardinals are not the only regional grouping in the conclave. European and African cardinals have regular meetings as well, and European cardinals, who comprise the largest bloc with 58 voters, see each other often.

Fernando Segovia, a Vanderbilt University theologian and past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States, is among those who doubt an alliance will form among cardinals from the Americas.

He noted that the cardinals have diverse views on Catholic teaching and he questioned whether the "heart of the institutional church" in the United States is in union with Latin America.

"If there is an alliance," he said, "it will be built on either a traditionalist or an innovative view of the future."

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prepares for communion at the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, in this April 8, 2005 file photo in Vatican City. For the upcoming conclave, Vatican watchers have signaled out Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has been the Vatican's guardian of church orthodoxy, as both papal candidate and kingmaker. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/ File)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

'Kingmakers' Play Key Role in Papal Election

Apr 14, 4:56 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - In the conclave that elected Pope John Paul II, it took an Austrian cardinal to break an impasse among Italians to pave the way for the first Polish pontiff.

Call them power brokers, kingmakers or "great electors," certain cardinals have historically played a key role in deciding papal elections, finding consensus among the various ideological, linguistic and geographic factions of the Roman Catholic Church.

In next week's conclave to elect John Paul's successor, Vatican watchers have singled out German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has been the Vatican's guardian of church orthodoxy, as both papal candidate and kingmaker.

Both Ratzinger's age - he turns 78 on Saturday - and his conservative policies in line with John Paul's are seen as making him a possible pope or a prestigious figure to rally around.

In an interesting contrast, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday pointed to the retired Milan archbishop, 78-year-old Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, as a figure to put the "brakes" on a Ratzinger candidacy. Martini could gather enough votes to block Ratzinger and allow another cardinal to emerge, according to this scenario.

But nationality is not necessarily the decisive factor. By Corriere della Sera's account, several German cardinals would be willing to join in a move to block Ratzinger because of his policies. Some have pleaded unsuccessfully for years for the Vatican to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion in the church.

Martini, reportedly ailing and considered too liberal to be elected pope, could be a true kingmaker.

Such powerful figures as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the No. 2 Vatican official, and Cardinal Camillio Ruini, vicar for Rome under John Paul, are also seen as "great electors."

Because the cardinals are sworn to secrecy about the conclave, no authoritative information is available about the voting. But some accounts filter out from the closeted gathering, often second hand from cardinals who are not allowed to participate because they are over 80 and don't feel bound by the secrecy oath.

In the months before John Paul's April 2 death at age 84, as the pontiff was clearly weakening, the outlines of divisions began to emerge in an eventual conclave that brings together 115 cardinals.

Italian cardinals seeking to regain the papacy after John Paul broke their 455-year monopoly could be pitted against Latin Americans, seeking to elect one of their own for the first time in recognition of their flock who make up nearly half the world's 1 billion Catholics.

Cardinals pushing a so-called "transitional pope" after a 26-year papacy could be blocked by those believing the dynamism John Paul brought to the church should not be slowed down.

"Some of the cardinals don't know each other so they're going to be listening to various people," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Vatican expert. But he doesn't see any cardinal with the clout that was exercised in some past conclaves.

In the 1978 conclave that elected John Paul II, an impasse developed as two Italian cardinals, Giovanni Benelli and Giuseppe Siri, split the Italian vote.

At that point Austrian Cardinal Franz Koenig, highly respected for his work to protect Catholics in communist eastern Europe, stepped forward and championed the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland, according to authoritative accounts.

Koenig forged a coalition to back the Polish cardinal, who had not been seen as a viable candidate before the conclave. He was able to gather enough votes with the help of other non-Italians.

At the time, Koenig once recalled, Poland's top churchman, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, voiced misgivings that the pontiff-to-be was "too young and too little-known."

The first signs that the College of Cardinals might turn to a non-Italian already were evident in the first conclave of 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI.

However, according to later accounts, that possibility ended when Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider of Brazil mustered the votes of Third World cardinals to the then-patriarch of Venice, who became Pope John Paul I.

But after his sudden death 33 days after his election, Lorscheider joined Koenig in the second conclave of that year and pushed for Wojtyla.

In the past, not only cardinals but kings and emperors have performed the role of kingmaker.

In 1903, Pope Pius X's election came after Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph sent a letter to cardinals urging them not to vote for a candidate he perceived as pro-French. The emperor cited the "right of exclusion," an informal power many Catholic nations had acquired since the 16th century that allowed monarchs to veto one papal candidate.

Even some of the cardinals themselves would represent the interests of monarchs or powerful noble families, and their voices carried great weight in the conclave.

Italians May Play Big Role in Picking Pope

Apr 14, 7:29 AM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - For centuries, Italians went into conclaves as kingmakers and one of them came out a pope. Then a Pole came along, and a lot of long-held perceptions about the papacy went up in puffs of white smoke.

John Paul II's election in 1978 broke Italy's 455-year-long grip on the papacy. Now, as cardinals prepare to pick his successor, Italians have less clout than they once did, but they could still be decisive.

"Their hammerlock on the papacy is gone," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of "America," a Jesuit magazine based in New York.

Yet when the cardinals talk among themselves, he said, "one of the first things they are going to say is, 'Who are the leading Italian candidates?'"

Closeted in the Sistine Chapel, 115 cardinals will start casting ballots Monday afternoon in a secret election expected to last days. The world will know they have a winner when white smoke pours out of the chapel's chimney and bells begin to toll.

Italians began dominating the Vatican in the first centuries of the Catholic Church, helped by the Vatican's location in Rome. But Greeks, Syrians, Africans and others led the church in the first millennium, and French, Germans and a few other nations provided popes in the first part of the second millennium.

Even Italian churchmen are among those doubting the days of Italian hegemony will return.

"I don't know, perhaps not," Italian Cardinal Fiorenzo Angeli replied when Milan daily Corriere della Sera asked him if Italians will regain the papacy.

With John Paul's pontificate, "Our perception of the church has broadened, to the point of reaching really global dimensions," said Angelini, who at 88 is too old to vote in the conclave. "You can't reason any more with a national mentality and not even a continental one."

The 115 cardinals voting next week come from all over the world, reflecting John Paul's commitment to geographic diversity. Twenty are from Italy, the same number as those from Latin America.

But after John Paul's 26-year papacy, one of the longest and most dynamic, age and personality are expected to be serious considerations.

"All things being equal it makes sense to have an Italian because he is the Bishop of Rome, but all things aren't equal," Reese said with a laugh.

One example is the number of faithful in Latin America - nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

"If you look at the reality of the numbers . . . you are struck by the importance that Latin America has achieved," Angelini said.

John Paul II came to power when John Paul I died after less than two months in office, leading to the second conclave in 1978. Venice Cardinal Albino Luciani was picked on the fourth ballot of the second day. His successor, Krakow Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, was elected on the eighth ballot, on the third day.

The Italians "were split, and the other cardinals said, 'You had your chance, now we're going to look elsewhere,'" Reese said.

Going into this vote, many experts on the Vatican think Milan Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi is one of five top candidates. Several other Italians, including cardinals from Venice, Genoa, Turin and Florence, have also made the buzz.

With Italians accounting for some 17 percent of the voters, a united front could be significant, but Reese said he saw no sign the Italians have rallied behind one candidate.

The editor of America said he thought the Italians would view this conclave as their "last chance" to get the papacy back and resume their domination. The pope appoints the cardinals.

But John-Peter Pham, a Vatican expert who worked at the Holy See from 1992 to 2002, said he was not sure that was the agenda. Still, the Italians "remain a force to be reckoned with," said Pham in a telephone interview from Virginia, where he is a professor at James Madison University.

"I think cardinals would be hesitant to elect a Bishop of Rome who is opposed by the bishops of Italy," Pham added.

Italians might have an advantage in lobbying, since fluency in conversational Latin, once expected of top churchmen, has largely slackened.

When cardinals gather, "if you watch their dining room behavior, they tend to sit in language groups," Pham said. "If there's a common language, it's Italian."

Sistine Chapel's Chimney Scrutinized

Apr 14, 5:05 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - It was seven minutes to noon and not a cloud was in sight when a trail of smoke snaked up from the Sistine Chapel a half century ago. "White! White!" the crowd chanted, sending pigeons fluttering from St. Peter's Square.

"We have a pope!" a priest proclaimed over Vatican Radio. Reporters rushed for telephones. Vatican guards were summoned from their barracks. Guests at a wedding in St. Peter's Basilica ran outside, leaving the bride and groom alone with the priest at the altar.

But within minutes, the smoke belching from the chimney had turned black. Apparently, the damp straw that the cardinals had added to their burning ballots had failed to catch.

Excepting matters involving Christmas Day and Santa Claus, no chimney in history has been more scrutinized than the simple stovepipe running up through a window in the Sistine Chapel.

In one of the Roman Catholic Church's most sacred traditions - the election of a pontiff - cardinals sequestered among Michelangelo's masterpieces use the iron stove and its narrow metal chimney to communicate with the outside world.

The tradition is simple: Black smoke means a vote has failed to produce a pope; white smoke means the cardinals have come to agreement. But the gray area - and the gray smoke - has often provoked confusion, such as in the incident described above, as reported in news accounts from Oct. 26, 1958.

So great was the confusion on that Sunday - there were two false alarms - that conclave marshal Sigismondo Chigi told reporters he would have the cardinals briefed "in the hope that something can be done to remedy the situation Monday," The Associated Press reported at the time.

The solution, according to Vatican expert John-Peter Pham, was to buy black smoke bombs and pass them into the chapel. The smoke they produced was clearly black, but some of it backed into the room, prompting complaints from the cardinals, he said.

Exactly when the tradition began is unclear, but smoke signals have been used continuously at least since 1878. In past centuries, conclaves were often held in the town where the last pope died, leaving the cardinals to come up with a means of communication on the spot. Sometimes they rang bells to signal a successful election.

Smoke was a logical choice because church tradition calls for the cardinals to burn their ballots after each vote to maintain secrecy about the conclave.

In the 16th century, cardinals burned their ballots in the ignition hole of a gun in the Sistine Chapel, John Allen wrote in his 2002 book "Conclave." Pope Julius III, an art lover who reigned from 1550 to 1555, ordered a stove installed because he feared the smoke would damage the frescoes, Allen wrote.

There is little record of color confusion until the 1958 conclave prompted changes.

Given the trouble with the smoke bombs, the cardinals in 1963 switched to Italian army flares producing black and white smoke. In the first of two 1978 conclaves, they experimented with chemical additives, but the smoke came out gray when John Paul I was elected.

"Not only did it fail to work outside, but it was nauseous to the men inside," said Pham, a Vatican official from 1992 to 2002 who now teaches at James Madison University in Virginia.

Two months later, after John Paul I's death prompted another conclave, the cardinals were back to the army flares. But the black smoke that billowed from the chimney quickly turned gray, sending journalists scrambling to pin down the color. Vatican Radio quickly declared the smoke black.

According to some reports, the radio station was able to know because of a button installed in the Sistine Chapel after the 1958 debacle to alert Vatican Radio to a decision. Some say the button alerts Vatican officials, who in turn pass along word to the radio. The Vatican has never commented on the reports.

On Saturday, the Vatican plans to install the stove, a gray iron cylinder, in the Sistine Chapel. Workers have been seen on the slanted roof of the chapel in recent days, apparently preparing the chimney.

Archbishop Piero Marini, master of ceremonies for liturgical celebrations, announced last week that the Vatican was trying to improve the burning procedure this year to make the color more easily identifiable. It was not known whether that meant new chemicals would be added.

But he said that when a new pope is chosen, the Vatican will ring the bells of St. Peter's Basilica in addition to burning the ballots, "to make the election of the pope clearer."

"This way," he said, "even journalists will know."

White smoke is blown out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, symbolizing the election of the new head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, 58-year-old archbishop of Krakow, Oct. 16, 1978. (AP Photo)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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