Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: Today's Pre-Conclave Stories

A pretty wide variety today: some more interesting, some perhaps less so, ending with the epic tale of the Sistine Chapel's chimmny being set up for its famous duty. I have to say, though, you couldn't ask for many places more epic to do the work of a Conclave. I would give a lot to be able to spend quiet time in there with God and the frescos. Erik gave me a good hour in there while he backtracked to hunt our missing companion Hugh, back in April of '98, but with all the tourists crowding the place, whispering to one another, and taking poor-quality photographs to the destruction of the colours and the shrieks of the guards, it was much more the "Sistine Museum" than the "Sistine Chapel." I hope someday to have enough Vatican contacts to be able to pull an after-hours stretch out on the floor in the silence of the space.

Anyway, on to the news!

Papal negative campaigning and the role of the Holy Spirit

By John L. Allen, Jr.

Among the boilerplate questions about conclaves I’ve been asked a thousand times by broadcast and print media this week, here’s one of the most common: What does it mean that the Holy Spirit guides the election of the pope? Isn’t this a political process?

My equally boilerplate response goes like this: It’s a longstanding principle in Catholic theology that grace builds on nature, it doesn’t cancel it out. The belief that God is involved in some human undertaking does not make it any less human, and applied to conclaves, it means that the role of the Holy Spirit does not make this any less a political exercise.

If you want proof of the point, consider the various forms of “negative campaigning” that have been floating through the Roman air in recent days:

• Italian media have reported rumors that Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice has been treated for depression, suggesting a sort of psychological instability that might disqualify him for the church’s highest office;

• Other reports suggest that Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai has diabetes, a telltale sign of ill health that might undercut what had been a growing swell of positive talk about him, at least in the local press; in addition, an e-mail campaign allegedly initiated by members of his own flock in India is making the rounds, including complaints of an “unapproachable, stubborn and arrogant style.”

• A recent book in Argentina alleges that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was unacceptably close to the military junta that dominated that country in the 1970s; another e-mail campaign, this one claiming to originate with fellow Jesuits who knew Bergoglio back when he was the provincial of the order in Argentina, claims that “he never smiled.”

• In the last 48 hours, reports have surfaced that both Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, considered by some to be leading candidates, are in poor health, raising questions about their physical capacity to be pope.

No one really has the time to trace down all these rumors, and in a sense that’s the point. The hope is that the mere fact that negative things are being said, whether or not they turn out to be true, will be enough to derail a particular candidacy.

In my experience, a safe rule of thumb is to assume such whispering campaigns are false until proof to the contrary emerges. Dias, for example, told a friend in Rome yesterday that he was surprised to read in the papers that he has diabetes, because it’s the first he’s heard of it. (This is reminiscent of John Paul II’s standard line when reporters would ask about his health. “I don’t know,” he would quip. “I haven’t read the newspapers yet.”)

Moreover, sometimes these attempts at sabotage aren’t even especially imaginative. A friend of mine in the Vatican diplomatic service, for example, called the other day to ask why no one seemed to be talking about Sodano’s well-documented role in efforts to free former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet when he was detained in Great Britain in 1999, facing potential extradition to Spain. Though there are a variety of ways to interpret Sodano’s interventions, not all of them unflattering, at least a critique along these lines would have the virtue of being rooted in reality.

This sort of murmuring is part of the inevitable backdrop to a campaign season, and one that’s more analogous to British rather than American politics – the race lasts only a couple of weeks, instead of almost three years. In the American cycle, there’s usually time to sort out whether alleged documents about George Bush’s National Guard service, for example, are authentic or not; in the frenzy of an abbreviated papal campaign, however, there’s just no time to do that kind of legwork.

Cardinals insist they are not influenced by any of this, and to some extent that’s no doubt true; many of them know one another, and aren’t dependent upon newspapers for assessments of Ratzinger’s health. On the other hand, given the quick judgments they have to make, sometimes just the hint of skeletons in the closet can be enough to cause them to think twice. Indeed, people launch these rumors for the same reason that political advisors in the United States craft attack ads – because, like it or not, sometimes negative campaigning works.

It should be emphasize that these smear campaigns originate outside the College of Cardinals, not inside, and that there is generally a very genteel, respectful tone to the discussions among the cardinals themselves. At the same time, they still have to face tough choices about what issues matter for the future of the church, and which man is best suited to meet those challenges. Whether they like it or not, that involves them in building coalitions and advancing candidates – in other words, in politics.

Perhaps the final word on the subject should belong to the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger. He was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected pope, and this was his response:

“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”

Then the clincher: “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”

Catholic-Muslim relations focus of sermon

Lebanese cardinal wants dialogue, collaboration

By Stacy Meichtry

Roman Catholicism’s relationship with Islam loomed large Thursday during a Memorial Mass that saw Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir cast John Paul II’s pontificate as a boon to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and express a desire for continued openness between Catholics and Muslims.

In a ceremony laced with prayers in Arabic, chanted over chimes and mandolin notes, Sfeir recounted a number of visits made by the pontiff to trouble spots in the Arab world, including Israel in 2000 and Syria in 2001. Sfeir then described John Paul’s symbolic visit to Lebanon in 1997 as a model for church relations with Islam.

“The Catholic Church wants to be open also to dialogue and to collaboration with Muslims from other Arab countries,” he said.

Sfeir is known as a strong proponent of Christian-Muslim coexistence in a country where Christian political power has been in decline since the end of Lebanon’s decades-long civil war in 1990. Sfeir played a key role in convincing hard-line Christians to back the 1989 Taif Accord that ended the war and prompted political reforms that eventually undermined Christian control over the government. Sfeir has also voiced support for bringing Hezbollah, an Islamic rebel group, into Lebanon’s political fold.

At 84, Sfeir will not be voting in the next conclave. But in an interview with Italian state radio last week, Sfeir expressed hope that the Middle East would not be ignored in the voting.

“You know the cardinals can’t talk about the conclave,” Sfeir said. “But we hope the Holy Spirit sends us a new pope who understands the world and the importance of the Middle East.”

Sfeir concelebrated the Mass with cardinals representing Eastern rite churches in communion with the Catholic Church, including Syrian Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud and Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, both of whom will vote in the upcoming conclave.

Hardliners within the church have characterized John Paul’s papacy as being soft on Islamic governments that put restrictions on the religious freedoms of non-Muslims. A lack of reciprocity in relations with Islam has been especially apparent in the case of Saudi Arabia, which financed the construction of Italy’s only mosque near Rome while maintaining a ban on the construction of Christian churches on Saudi soil.

Sfeir referred to John Paul as the “pope of peace,” praising his opposition to the American-led war in Iraq. He also asserted that John Paul’s efforts to strengthen dialogue with Muslims did not diminish the Church’s standing in the Arab world.

“Opening to non-Christian religions never prevented the pope from raising his voice when human rights were ignored,” Sfeir said. “Nor did he accept establishing diplomatic relations with countries that denied the Christian religion the right to exist.”

The homily also touched on Ut Unum Sint, John Paul’s 1995 encyclical on ecumenical dialogue that many believe brought Catholicism closer to accepting other Christian denominations.

John Paul “confronted the problems of ecumenism, leaving an eloquent testimony of his ecumenical anxiety,” Sfeir said. “He never stopped promoting dialogue between Christians from different denominations.”

Some would say John Paul’s push for dialogue in the mid-1990’s has been overshadowed by the more recent writings of his top theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

As the Vatican’s doctrinal czar, Ratzinger first took the wind out of ecumenical relations with a 2000 document titled Note on the Expression “Sister Churches” that classified the Catholic Church as the “mother” of other Christian denominations as opposed to a “sister,” the more common description in ecumenical circles.

The follow up to this letter came shortly thereafter with Ratzinger’s controversial Dominus Iesus, which suggested that the salvific powers of non-Catholic communities was ultimately rooted in the Catholic Church. In a blow to inter-religious dialogue, the document also insisted that Jesus Christ is the world’s unique and only savior.

Antigone or Ismene: The new choice

By Joan Chittister, OSB

Antigone, Sophocles’s 5th century B.C.E. play about one woman’s willingness to sacrifice herself in order to bury her outcast brother, lives on from era to era, a struggle between the powerful and the powerless. A classic tribute to one woman’s commitment to those she loves, to her ideals and her religion, it cuts a bit too close to the bone these days.

Despite the fact that King Creon has decreed that the brother be denied the funeral rituals essential to his salvation, Antigone refuses to accept the decision and does what no man will do. She claims her right to think differently than the king, to act differently than those around her, to expose the spiritual inadequacy of the system.

Today I think I saw a scene or two out of the same play, only this time it was recast for the 21st century.

Today I watched an Italian woman, Adriano Valerio, a professor of Church History at the University of Naples and President of the European Society of Women in Theological Research, face a press conference. The gathering was designed to open the conversation everyone else has either been avoiding these weeks or cannot find a platform from which to launch it. She called her presentation, “Toward a New Pontificate: The Gender Question.”

Sponsored by the International board of “We Are Church,” the series of conferences is intended to bring attention to major issues in the church before the Conclave begins in order to give the cardinal-electors an opportunity to hear Catholic concerns from around the world that are beyond the traditional clerical issues. Speakers are invited to raise issues they consider either to have been unfinished in the papacy of John Paul II or simply ignored.

Professor Valerio, representing 600 women theologians of Europe, minced no words about their concerns. She cited five major issues requiring papal attention if the equality claimed to be characteristic of male-female relationships in the Catholic church is to become real.

The church, the women say, must abandon its anthropology of complementarity–the notion that men do certain prescribed things and that women must do others–in favor of an anthropology of partnership, the notion that men and women do the same things in life but in masculine and feminine ways.

The very identity of God, who is said to be pure spirit but always identified as male, must be rethought for this to happen and women’s understanding and interpretation of scripture must be absorbed into Christian thought and teaching alongside that of their male counterparts.

“Women’s bodies and sexuality cannot be seen anymore as sources of sin and temptation,” she said. Women must be seen “as responsible and reasonable actors in the entire sphere of human behavior.”

Women must be admitted to theology departments and included in the process of theological reflection. Textbooks must be revised to include their insights and men must study the ideas and history of women as well as men in the church.

Ministries must be broadened to include women because Jesus became flesh, took on our entire humanity, not simply its male form. “We do not claim space,” she said, (we claim) “communion and participation beyond every hierarchic structure.”

Leadership positions in the church must be open to women, she argued. Otherwise, “to deny women such roles means to throw them into the shadows again as a sort of minority whose existence needs a controlling, approving, judging, leading male mediation.”

Then the reporters present asked her questions. I’ll tell you more about the questions and her answers tomorrow.

In the meantime, however, we may need to remember, in case we’ve forgotten, that in Sophocles’ “Antigone,” Ismene, her sister to whom she turns for support and help, cannot bring herself to contradict the King–even though she knows it should be done. As a result, Antigone decides that what must be done as a sign of love for her brother, a demonstration of her ideals and her commitment to the higher principles of her religion, she will have to do alone.

Every one of us, perhaps, is in a situation where we ourselves must choose to be either Antigone or Ismene. Today I saw one woman stand in the place of many–whatever the cost to herself. We are all better off because of it. “Antigone” lives on.

Experts say new pope will be challenged by globalized church, economy

By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The pope elected to lead the world's 1.1 billion Catholics will face challenges from an increasingly globalized church and economy.

Church experts said that this involves reframing Catholic social teachings to deal with the ever-widening economic gulf between rich and poor now that capitalism reigns supreme, and retooling a church that has become globalized through its rapid growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

While a new pope can directly retool the institutional church to meet new needs, experts said that he will have little ability to change the world economy as the church does not carry enough clout with world political and governmental leaders.

Influencing economic globalization will require a pope who speaks out clearly against flaws in the system, makes influencing economic globalization a high church priority and encourages church alliances with other like-minded civic groups, they said.

Globalization of the church is linked to globalization of the economy, with a new pope having the task of reassessing what it means to be the church and a Catholic in the modern world, said Fernando Segovia, theology professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.

Segovia and other experts interviewed by Catholic News Service said meeting both challenges involves giving local bishops and national bishops' conferences more power to address issues as they apply to their countries.

Needed is a re-emphasis of the Second Vatican Council teaching on collegiality, the sharing of authority between the papacy and the world's bishops, Segovia said.

"How much leeway is the Vatican going to allow after a pontificate that hadn't allowed much" local authority, asked Segovia.

The tremendous expansion of the church in non-Western parts of the world means dealing with different ways of understanding what belief is, he said.

This includes such issues as liturgical practice, the role of women in the church and the church's relationship to native religions and Islam, he said.

"For a church so thoroughly Western, this will be a challenge," he said.

Other experts added that evangelizing and promoting economic development need to go hand in hand as the church tries to adapt and adjust to new realities.

The world is divided between the "have-nots" and the "have-lots," said Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody, assistant theology professor and director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.

While being a moral voice for social change in favor of the poor, the new pope also has "to cultivate spiritual development as part and parcel of physical development," said Father Groody, who is currently on academic leave to research a book on the church and globalization.

Pope John Paul II was good at emphasizing the primacy of the spirit and integrating this with the need for material development, said Father Groody.

A new pope "needs to build bridges across denominational and political lines, build a common vision based on the momentum that is already there" to influence economic globalization, he said.

Other experts said that the new pope would have to reframe Catholic social teachings to encompass the specific problems of economic globalization just as Pope Leo XIII reframed social teachings at the end of the 19th century to meet the challenges of the Industrial Revolution and the call for workers' rights.

This reframing has to be done "not by condemning capitalism. It's the only show in town," said Holy Cross Father Ernest Bartell, retired Notre Dame economics professor who specializes in international issues.

Criticisms have to be fine-tuned to zero in on specific aspects of economic globalization, he said.

"Capitalism does generate wealth," Father Bartell said.

"The church needs to help create vehicles that will incorporate more people into the world of economic opportunity," he said.

It also has to stress fighting corruption and protecting the environment as the market economic model does not provide correctives for these, he said.

"The market allows for pollution. This is only resolved outside the market through national legislation and international treaties," he said.

The church has to empower people through its preaching and teaching and its initiatives to bring people together, said Father Bartell. "Bishops' conferences have to cooperate with other religions on these issues."

Influencing economic changes in favor of poor countries is an uphill battle, said Father Bartell.

The will by world leaders to promote meaningful development has weakened, he said.

Decades ago leaders were speaking of earmarking 1 percent of the yearly gross national product of each developed country for foreign aid and now the target is 0.5 percent, he said.

Daniel Finn, who is a professor of both theology and economics at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., said free trade agreements promoted by the United States in the underdeveloped world are an example of how the church must divide the good from the bad on concrete issues.

"In general, trade and the foreign investment that comes with it are helpful," he said.

"But underdeveloped countries are at a disadvantage in trade agreements. They don't have as many cards to play," said Finn.

"The church is called to make clear how the United States uses its narrow self-interests in promoting trade agreements," he said.

A new pope has to encourage national bishops' conferences to become active on economic globalization issues because specific situations change from country to country, he said.

"There has been a discouraging of local bishops' conferences taking on issues. It would be a good thing for the church and its social doctrine if local bishops are allowed to take on the application of church teachings to local situations," he said.

Vanderbilt's Segovia said that efforts to reframe the church's social teachings should take a lesson from liberation theology by taking seriously the current economic situation and incorporating it in its theological analysis of problems.

Liberation theology was a response to the economic dependency theory which held that underdeveloped countries remained that way because of policies in the developed, capitalist world, he said.

"Liberation theology included an economic component in its fight for liberation from dependency," he said.

Today, a "reformulated theology" also needs a "critical analysis of the global reality in economic terms," he said.

Italians Feel They Need the Next Papacy for Themselves

By JASON HOROWITZ for The New York Times

Published: April 16, 2005

VATICAN CITY, April 15 - For 455 years, the papacy passed uninterrupted from one Italian to another until the election of the Polish pope, John Paul II. Now, after 26 years, many Italians think it is time to get back in office - for fear that changes in the Roman Catholic Church may close the door on them for good.

As 115 cardinals from 52 countries prepare to enter a conclave on Monday to select the next pope, some Vatican historians believe that the election of another foreigner will conclude a historic shift of power away from Italy. According to this school of thought, the papacy needs to mirror Catholicism's growth in the Southern Hemisphere, where the ranks are increasing in Africa and Latin America while shrinking in Europe.

Few church experts think that another loss for the Italians will knock them out as papal contenders for good, but it seems sure once and for all to shatter the idea, reinforced by so many centuries of dominance, that Italians are preternaturally the best men for the job.

Some here think that would be a mistake.

"There is a vocation, an Italian charisma," said Vittorio Messori, an Italian writer who collaborated on John Paul's 1994 book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope." "The Italians have a tradition of centuries behind them, they know how to do the job of pope, it's in their DNA."

Well, until now, anyway. "Another non-Italian pope would confirm Italy's decline," said Giovanni Maria Vian, a Vatican scholar at La Sapienza University of Rome. "It would mean Italy has lost its central role in papal succession."

There are signs that Italy is resisting such a trend, seeking to reclaim its traditional hold and add to the 212 popes it has had in the church's history.

The 20 Italians who will enter next week's conclave still constitute the largest bloc of cardinals for any single nation, and a handful have emerged as frontrunners among those being considered for the papacy. In recent years, as the pope's health waned, a number of them maintained a high level of visibility and weighed in on major issues and challenges facing the church.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, the archbishop of Milan, released his major work on bio-ethics as an e-book. Cardinal Angelo Scola, 63, the archbishop of Venice, started a magazine last month promoting dialogue with Muslims, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, 74, the vicar of Rome, published a book criticizing secularism.

There also seems to be a more subtle campaign, on the part of Italians as a whole, to recast John Paul as one of their own.

Cardinal Ruini presided over a memorial Mass for the pope last week, delivering an uncharacteristically charismatic performance in which he noted that John Paul had entered "so deeply into the hearts of Romans, but also Italians."

Italy's capital, too, has staked its claim, plastering the streets with posters announcing, "Rome mourns its pope." The College of Cardinals also decided that the pope's final resting place should be in St. Peter's crypt, instead of his native Poland.

Regardless of how much Rome may claim John Paul as its own, the fact remains that he was a pope with global appeal, and his enormous personality and long reign left an indelible stamp on the papacy.

"Wojtyla became the church himself, people identified him with it," said Pietro Scoppola, an Italian Vatican expert, using John Paul's name before he became pope. "An Italian could step back and let the church step forward."

Indeed, some Vatican analysts argue that a shift back to an Italian pope may be necessary to properly govern the Curia, or church government, because few have as intimate a knowledge of the inner workings of the Vatican bureaucracy, which manages the daily operations of the church and which John Paul largely ignored.

But an Italian cardinal, Fiorenzo Angelini, who is 88 and too old to vote in the conclave, seemed to disagree in an interview this week with Corriere della Sera of Milan.

"Our perception of the church has broadened, to the point of reaching really global dimensions," he said. "You can't reason any more with a national mentality, and not even a Continental one."

The largest growth of Roman Catholics in 2003, the last year Vatican statistics are available, was in Africa, followed by Asia and South America. Only in Europe did the number of Catholics fail to rise.

"The center of the church, from a sociological point of view, is not in Italy," said Giancarlo Zizola, author of "Conclave: History and Secrets," a study of how popes have been selected. "The world has changed, and it is normal that the church change too. There is good chance now of the first non-European pope in a very long time, and that would be significant."

Greek and Syrian popes reigned at the early stages of the nearly 2,000-year history of the church, and the French all but moved the Vatican to Avignon in the 1400's.

Since Adrian VI, a pope from Holland, died in 1523, the Italians have held a tight grip on papal power, through the rise and fall of the Papal States and two world wars. But in 1978, the year of John Paul's election, that all changed.

Wherever the pope is from, one thing is certain, and it is something that Pope John Paul instantly grasped during that first papal address from the balcony of St. Peter's so many years ago, when he spoke to the Roman crowd in what he called "our Italian language."

"Those who don't speak Italian are out," said Mr. Messori, the writer. "It's like wanting to be the secretary general of U.N. and not speaking English."

Cardinal Ratzinger Divides Germans

Apr 15, 4:59 PM (ET)


TRAUNSTEIN, Germany (AP) - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has alienated some Roman Catholics in Germany with his zeal enforcing church orthodoxy. But in the conservative Alpine foothills of Bavaria where he grew up, he remains a favorite son who many think would make a good pope.

Ratzinger, a rigorously conservative guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy who turns 78 on Saturday, is considered a leading candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II at the conclave that begins Monday.

"Only someone who knows tradition is able to shape the future," said the Rev. Thomas Frauenlob, who heads the seminary in Traunstein where Ratzinger studied and regularly returns to visit.

But opinion about him remains deeply divided in Germany, a sharp contrast to John Paul, who was revered in his native Poland. A recent poll for Der Spiegel news weekly showed Germans opposed to him becoming pope outnumbered supporters 36 percent to 29 percent. Another 17 percent didn't care. The poll of 1,000 people, taken April 5-7, gave no margin of error.

Many blame Ratzinger for decrees from Rome barring Catholic priests from counseling pregnant teens on their options and blocking German Catholics from sharing communion with their Lutheran brethren at a joint gathering in 2003.

Ratzinger has clashed with prominent theologians at home, most notably the liberal Hans Küng, who helped him get a teaching post at the University of Tuebingen in the 1960s. The cardinal later publicly criticized Küng, whose license to teach theology was revoked by the Vatican in 1979.

He has also sparred openly in articles with fellow German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a moderate who has urged less centralized church governance and is considered a dark horse papal candidate.

"He has hurt many people and far overstepped his boundaries in Germany," said Christian Wiesner, spokesman for the pro-reform Wir Sind Kirche, or We Are Church movement.

Ratzinger himself, in his autobiography, sensed he was out of step with his fellow Germans as early as the 1960s, when he was a young assistant at the Second Vatican Council in Rome.

Returning to Germany between sessions, "I found the mood in the church and among theologians to be agitated," he wrote. "More and more there was the impression that nothing stood fast in the church, that everything was up for revision."

Ratzinger left Tuebingen during student protests in the late 1960s and moved to the more conservative University of Regensburg in his home state of Bavaria.

Catholics and Protestants each account for about 34 percent of the German population, but Bavaria is one of the more heavily Catholic areas.

"What Wadowice was for John Paul, Bavaria is for Ratzinger," said Frauenlob, referring to John Paul II's hometown in southern Poland. "He has very deep roots here, it's his home."

The cardinal was born in Marktl Am Inn, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.

He and his older brother, Georg - former director of the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir - still return annually to the peaceful halls of St. Michael's Seminary to stay in the elegant, but sparsely furnished bishop's apartment next to the church.

An accomplished pianist who loves Mozart, Ratzinger enjoys playing the grand piano in the seminary's main hall, and walking through downtown Traunstein greeting people, Frauenlob said.

Traunstein was also where Ratzinger went through the harrowing years of Nazi rule and World War II. In 1943, he was drafted as an assistant to a Nazi anti-aircraft unit and sent to Munich. A year later he was released, only to be sent to the Austrian-Hungarian border to construct tank barriers.

He deserted the Germany army in May 1945 and returned to Traunstein - a risky move, since deserters were shot on the spot if caught, or publicly hanged as examples to others.

When he arrived home, U.S. soldiers took him prisoner and held him in a POW camp for several weeks. Upon his release, he re-entered the seminary.

Ratzinger was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. He then spent several years teaching theology. In 1977, he was appointed bishop of Munich and elevated to cardinal three months later.

Pope John Paul II named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, where he was responsible for enforcing Church orthodoxy. Ratzinger speaks several languages, among them Italian and English, as well as his native language German.

Frauenlob calls him a subtle thinker with a deep understanding of Catholic tradition and a personal touch he's not often given credit for.

He cites the example of the seminary's 2003 confirmation service where no bishop was available. Ratzinger swiftly agreed to come, confirming the 14 boys, then taking time to speak personally to each one after the ceremony.

"I find it hurtful to see him described as a hard-liner," Frauenlob said. "People are too quick to say that, it's not an accurate reflection of his personality."

Electing a Pope Has a Long History

Apr 15, 2:55 PM (ET)


With its secret voting and smoke signals, the papal election may seem archaic. But in fact, the conclave that begins Monday is the product of reforms to prevent the corruption of past centuries - including mob rule, bribery and interference by monarchs that sullied the selection of the vicar of Christ.

The papacy is sometimes called the world's oldest elective office, but on many occasions, choosing a pope has hardly been a democratic exercise.

History explains why cardinals under 80 years of age have the exclusive right to choose the leader of a billion-plus Roman Catholics, and why they vow to shun all outside influence, whether from clerics, parishioners or - most importantly - political power-brokers. So important is keeping the cardinals sheltered that Vatican workers took an oath Friday never to reveal anything they may learn about the workings of the conclave.

As the church grew from a small sect into a powerful force, both spiritually and temporally, the pope across 11 centuries was a monarch who ruled central Italy. Political feuding for his throne sometimes became unbearable.

Nineteen elections lasted more than a month and several dragged on for many months, even years. Other successions descended into violence.

Consider the reign of Pope Sergius III in the 10th century.

His faction seized the papacy through armed force, and he had his imprisoned predecessor, Pope Leo V, strangled to death.

Chroniclers of the age claimed that Sergius had a son with a 15-year-old girl - who was later elected Pope John XII by the nobles who had backed Sergius. John himself became a notorious debaucher who was deposed, struck back and deposed his successor, and supposedly died while in bed with a married woman.

Then there was Alexander VI, who won the papacy just before the Protestant Reformation by bribing cardinals and promising lucrative jobs. His subsequent reign was "marked by nepotism, greed and unbridled sensuality," the Rev. Richard McBrien writes in "Lives of the Popes."

Thanks to Alexander, the cardinals who elected his successor included his illegitimate son, appointed a cardinal at age 18, and the brother of one of the pope's mistresses.

Perhaps the most bizarre succession involved the "cadaver synod" of 897.

So much did Pope Stephen VI hate his deceased predecessor, Pope Formosus, that Stephen had his minions dig up Formosus' corpse. The new pope then held a mock trial for the old one, stripped the corpse of its vestments, cut off the two fingers that bestowed papal blessings and threw the body into the Tiber.

The over-the-top display did Stephen no good. His enemies rebelled, imprisoned him and strangled him to death.

Such outrageous behavior was not how it all began.

St. Peter, the first pope - though historians say he was not called by that title in his lifetime - named his successors.

And on many occasions in the first Christian millennium, popes were chosen by the clergy and laity of Rome - or by the clergy with assent from the laity.

By 1059, the church decided to try and prevent electoral pressure from mobs, Roman nobles or European emperors and gave election powers only to Rome's ranking clerics, the cardinals. Since 1378, only fellow cardinals have been elected pope.

Still, worldly politics were hard to stamp out. The conclave concept was inspired by a particularly messy 13th-century election that required 33 months because cardinals represented competing monarchs.

The angry mayor and townspeople of Viterbo, north of Rome, eventually locked the cardinals in a papal palace, reduced their food and ripped off part of the roof to expose them to the elements, all to force a decision.

The cardinals' monopoly on power has been broken only once, to end the disastrous Great Schism (1378-1417) when two and sometimes three rivals claimed to be pope. The Council of Constance assigned 30 prelates representing the major powers of Europe to join the 24 cardinals in choosing the pope.

The papacy's political problem had roots in the eighth century, when Pope Stephen II allied with the Franks against Germanic and Byzantine monarchs and established the Papal States - making the popes absolute rulers of a sovereign, secular realm.

That regime fell to Italian troops in 1870, and a 1929 treaty with Mussolini established its remnant, Vatican City.

But during the centuries when the papacy held political and financial power as well as religious authority, European monarchs jockeyed for influence over the church; eventually they even gained veto powers over papal candidates.

As recently as the 1903 conclave, a cardinal from Krakow, Poland - the same post John Paul II later filled - declared that the Austrian emperor was exercising his veto right against the front-runner. He and the other cardinals were furious, and claimed the veto was invalid.

The objectionable candidate then gained a bit of momentum, but in the end the conclave elected Pius X. Still, the cardinals' anger signaled a permanent change in the papacy.

While the church regarded the loss of the Papal States as a disaster, the defeat actually had liberated the popes to become strictly moral and spiritual leaders again.

The election next week will be held in secret, as usual, to help ensure that things stay that way.


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Language Prowess Helps in Becoming Pope

Apr 15, 2:42 AM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - In his very first minutes as pope, John Paul II announced this priority - that he would improve his Italian.

The Polish pontiff knew what many cardinals now are also likely keenly aware of, as they ponder whom they should pick as his successor: speaking the right language helps.

Poor or no Italian virtually disqualifies even the best of candidates from the papacy.

"It would be unthinkable having a Bishop of Rome who didn't speak the language of the Romans," said John-Peter Pham, who in his former work in the Vatican's secretariat of state's office in the 1990s witnessed the decline of Latin and the ascendancy of Italian among church hierarchy.

The pontiff also is the Bishop of Rome, the titular head of the church in the Italian capital.

When he appeared to the crowd in St. Peter's Square for the first time as pontiff, on Oct. 16, 1978, John Paul II won popularity points when he asked Romans in the square to "correct" his Italian if necessary.

Fluency in Italian plays in the lobbying for the papacy.

Italian cardinals, including some who worked in powerful offices inside the Vatican, will be courted by many for their insider's sense of who has the makings of the next pontiff.

A clubby chat with one of them could give a sense of where momentum is building around a candidate.

Translators are assisting cardinals in vital idea-shaping discussions in the run-up to the April 18 start of the conclave, said a Vatican official.

But when the cardinals enter the secret conclave, they'll be on their own language-wise, and being unable to express sophisticated thoughts in Italian could be a handicap.

"Language is power" in the halls of the Vatican, said the official, a longtime member of the Vatican's Curia, or bureaucracy, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"I speak Latin with my colleagues in the office and in the corridor so we can practice," said the Rev. Reginald Foster, who is a Latin expert among the Vatican Curia. "Elsewhere it's Italian" in the Vatican.

For centuries, Latin was the language of the church, and still is officially. But in the late 1960s, after Vatican reforms allowed Masses to be said in local languages, Latin started its decline as the linking language among churchmen.

"The Curia today works in Italian, and if you had a pope not conversant with the people around him, that would be a handicap," said Pham, a professor at James Madison University in Virginia.

John Paul was criticized by some Vatican observers as entrusting too much church business to the Curia, and Pham said the cardinals will have that in mind going into the vote.

"Whatever the good qualities the candidate would bring, his effectiveness just in managing the Curia would be somewhat hampered," Pham said.

The two conclaves in 1978 were the last papal elections in which most cardinals were old enough to have had to converse in Latin, so next week's voting will put the Italian-as-lingua-franca concept to the test.

Of the 115 cardinals who will vote, 20 are Italian, but many of the others studied the language at the prestigious theological institutes or canon law universities in Rome, which were stepping stones to successful Church careers.

"Most of them get along in Italian, and English is coming up" among the cardinals, said Foster.

Although English might be heard more and more around the Vatican, many of the U.S. cardinals in Rome ahead of the conclave are drawing on their Italian skills, like Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

A New York native who also is fluent in French, Spanish and German, McCarrick lived in Europe as a youth.

U.S. cardinals are not expected to be candidates because the cardinals would be reluctant to give the papacy to a citizen of the world's superpower. But McCarrick is widely respected and his opinions are likely to be sought out at the conclave.

Another U.S. linguist among the American cardinals is Chicago Archbishop Francis George, who strengthened his Italian during the dozen years he lived in Rome, including as vicar general for his religious order.

English-speaking cardinals will likely want the buzz from Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, a former Holy See insider and fluent Italian speaker. Rigali is close to Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who was the powerful head of the bishops' office at the Vatican and could be a kingmaker in the conclave.

Latin America also will have 20 cardinals in the conclave, and some observers think the predominantly Spanish-speaking region could have its first pope.

Among the most talked about candidates is Honduras Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga. Like John Paul II, who was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, high on his resume are his skills as a linguist, including command of Italian.

African Cardinals Francis Arinze of Nigeria, right, Christian Wiyghan Tumi of Cameroon, center, and Polycarp Pengo of Tanzania share a word during 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.

African Catholic Church Growing Rapidly

Apr 15, 4:34 AM (ET)


SOWETO, South Africa (AP) - Mass is so crowded at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church that the parishioners spill out into the courtyard, where they huddle close to the doors to hear and be heard.

Worship here is participatory and joyous, not a staid moral duty performed amid pomp and ritual beneath the stained glass of one of Europe's cavernous and magnificent cathedrals.

The Catholic Church seems young, active and relevant, growing at a rate so explosive - with nearly 140 million Roman Catholics in Africa - that it's a vital part of today's Christian expansion.

The next pope will inherit a vibrant African flock but will also face challenges in competing with Islam and Pentecostal Christian Churches, said Archbishop Pius Ncube.

The church is growing so quickly largely because it has sought to embrace what is good in African culture rather than trying to make Africans into Westerners, Ncube said.

"There is a vitality to the church in Africa. In Europe, a Mass is simply a duty you must go through," Ncube said. "Africans like to feel they are celebrating. They want to rejoice, ululate and dance."

At St. Joseph's the priest gives the homily in Zulu and draws boisterous laughter as his examples strike close to home. With no organ, hymns are sung a cappella while the congregation and choir sways and dances.

The number of Catholics in Africa has jumped about 150 percent since Pope John Paul II ascended to the throne of St. Peter in 1978. Churchmen and academics say the growth, the fastest in the long history of the church, promises in time to change the nature of the faith.

"The Church is based on Western traditions that will come under huge pressure after the African church comes of age," said Paul Germond, who teaches comparative religion at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg.

For decades Western Europe and North America have been seen as the financial base of the church even while the faithful slip from strict adherence to its teachings. Latin America, which is more than 90 percent Roman Catholic, has been viewed as a bedrock of the faith. But Africa has been seen as the growth market in the competition for souls.

St. Joseph's, parishioners say, is a model of what the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it replaced the Latin Mass with the local language and a testament to why the faith is growing so fast in Africa.

The red and tan ceramic floor tile at St. Joseph's is cracked and shattered, the white and orange walls are adorned with cheap modern prints depicting the passion of Christ and the windows are panes of white, yellow and green translucent glass in no discernible pattern.

But its parishioners appear passionately involved in the Mass.

"Since Vatican II, people can clap, dance and play the drums," said Alson Ntombela, 72, a member of the St. Joseph's congregation. "Africans are very spiritual. They like to glorify. The Catholic Church now reflects and accepts our culture."

Makhosonke Maseko, 30, a medical doctor, said he converted to Catholicism from the Presbyterian Church because Roman Catholics more than anyone else try to make religion relevant to Africans.

Ncube said when he became a Roman Catholic 45 years ago, he said there were only two or three African bishops. Now more than 80 percent of the bishops are African. Once most of the priests were Western missionaries, now Africa sends priests to Europe and America.

"Africa is a continent with a lot of troubles, with wars, strife, starvation, poverty and the AIDS crisis. That causes a lot of people to seek God," said Ncube.

He credits John Paul II with much of the success in Africa. The pope made 14 trips to Africa, more than to any other continent.

"He was a pope of the people when so many had been prisoners of the Vatican," said Ncube. "He was a blessing."

Churchmen and academics in Africa said they believe it's unlikely that the College of Cardinals, which begins voting in conclave on Monday, will choose an African pope. But Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria is considered a possible contender, having risen to the No. 4 position in the Vatican at a time when fundamentalist Islamic and Protestant sects replaced communism as the biggest challenge to Catholic proselytizing.

Germond, the professor, believes the explosion of Christianity in Africa has come partly because the religion is how Africans accepted and made sense of the modern world.

When missionaries brought Christianity, they also brought education and health care. About 60 percent of the hospital beds in Congo now are in Roman Catholic facilities, he said.

"Christianity was entrenched by the education system. Many of Africa's leaders were educated in church schools and universities," said Germond.

But while the growth has been massive, Germond said it is difficult to produce precise figures.

"Africans are very pluralistic in religious beliefs. They can be Catholic and still attend Pentecostal services or go to traditional healers," said Germond.

Adapting the church to African culture is changing the nature of the faith, said Germond. For now the changes in how the faith is practiced are within Africa. But as the church's center of gravity slides south, Western traditions will come under increasing pressure.

"The church is the oldest institution in history. It manages change in a gradual way over generations," said Germond.

Latin Americans Root for Papal Candidates

Apr 15, 4:51 AM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Across Latin America, it's as if they're cheering for their national squads at the World Cup. But the nations battling for the top spot won't be appearing at any stadium. This contest will be in the frescoed halls of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel - and the prize is the papacy.

Politicians from across the continent have waded into a very public campaign for papal candidates that is irritating many church officials who insist only the Holy Spirit will influence the 115 voting cardinals in their decision.

The papal election "isn't a soccer match," Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera, considered an outside contender, told the Mexico City newspaper El Universal from Rome. "This isn't decided by popularity or what the news media say. The one who decides is God."

That hasn't prevented others from letting their opinions be known.

"Obviously if he were from Latin America he would be much closer to us, and would know our problems better," said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "It would be even better if he were Brazilian. We'll be rooting."

Honduran President Ricardo Maduro wasn't going to be left behind with his support for the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga.

"With Cardinal Rodriguez, Latin America has an extraordinary chance of having a pope in the Vatican," he said, calling the election "an opportunity to show the world that we have good things in Honduras."

On his way to the pope's funeral, he added: "I hope Cardinal Rodriguez is chosen as successor to John Paul II, because he's a saintly man full of virtue."

Even in Cuba, which was officially atheist from 1959 to 1991, the idea of a local pope was too tempting to resist. Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba's parliament, said in Rome last week that he'd be very happy if Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega were elected.

"If would be the first time I could say that the person elected pope is someone I've known for a long time and with whom I have a very affectionate relationship," he said. "Not everyone gets to have a friend as pope."

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos told CNN recently that a Colombian pope "would be incredible" and might help settle the country's four-decade-old civil war, as well as work for solutions to regional problems like poverty and discrimination.

The church doesn't like the cheerleading, and some religious officials have denounced the politicians' statements.

"Lula shouldn't get involved or place bets," said Cardinal Eusebio Scheid, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, referring the Brazilian president.

Other officials were more diplomatic but left no doubt that politicians weren't welcome in the Sistine Chapel.

"The pope will be everyone's pope. It doesn't matter where he's from," said Guillermo Marco, spokesman for Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, considered a papal contender. "The mission of the church is religious, and politicians are another thing."

Workers Pledge Secrecy in Papal Election

Apr 15, 5:03 PM (ET)

(AP) A worker installs the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Friday April 15, 2005.The chimney is connected to the stove used to burn ballot papers during the conclave. When white smoke passes through the chimney , it will mean the new pope has been chosen. Starting Monday, April 18, 115 Cardinals from all over the world will hold closed-door meetings in the Sistine Chapel to elect the next head of the Roman Catholic Church. ( (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
Full Image

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Housekeepers, elevator operators and others who will come in contact with cardinals as they choose a new pope took an oath of secrecy Friday, pledging never to reveal any details of the politicking and infighting behind the selection process.

The ceremony came hours after workmen scaled the roof of the Sistine Chapel and attached the chimney pipe that will spew out puffs of white smoke to announce to the world that a new pope has been elected.

With one hand on the book of the Gospels, each of several dozen Vatican officials and workers swore to keep secret anything they might learn about the cardinals' discussions and votes during the conclave, which begins Monday afternoon. While the sessions are closed, there is a potential for the workers to overhear chance remarks by cardinals between sittings.

"I will observe absolute and perpetual secrecy with all who are not part of the College of Cardinal electors concerning all matters directly or indirectly related to the ballots cast and their scrutiny for the election of the Supreme Pontiff," the workers intoned. "So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand."

They also signed written pledges of secrecy and promised to refrain from using audio or video equipment during the closed-door votes. Violating the pledge could bring the severest of punishments the church can mete out: excommunication.

Secrecy has long been a hallmark of conclaves. But the threat of leaks and spying worries officials in an age of high-tech listening devices and with some 6,000 accredited journalists prowling Vatican City in search of what 115 red-hatted "princes of the church" are thinking.

In addition, for the first time, cardinals will be allowed to move about Vatican City freely once the voting starts, though they are forbidden to talk to anyone who hasn't been sworn to secrecy.

Already, purported leaks from secret pre-conclave meetings are abounding in the Italian media, with newspapers reporting on the daily jockeying of factions pushing their candidates.

Early in the week, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was touted as the front-runner, with nearly half of the votes. By Friday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the No. 2 Vatican official, and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa were gaining some momentum, newspapers claimed.

The Rev. Andrew Greeley, a prominent Catholic author, said such leaks are common in the run-up to a conclave, but should dry up once the master of liturgical ceremonies cries "Extra omnes" - Latin for "all out" - and only the cardinals are left in the Sistine Chapel to vote.

"It is like the previous conclaves: About this time before they go into the conclave, the Italians begin to leak things to the Italian media and you get all kinds of wild predictions," he said.

Pope John Paul II outlined the secrecy procedures in his 1996 document "Universi Dominici Gregis," or "Shepherd of the Lord's Whole Flock."

His rules allow for a few people to have contact with the cardinals: prelates involved in ceremonial functions, maids and food servers at the Vatican hotel where the cardinals will stay, drivers who will ferry them to the Sistine Chapel and back each day, elevator operators who will take them to the chapel itself, doctors and nurses on call for sick cardinals and priests who will hear confessions.

John Paul also singled out the need for two "trustworthy technicians" who will sweep the Sistine Chapel and adjoining rooms for bugs and other listening devices. Telephones also are banned.

The document warns that any of them "who directly or indirectly could in any way violate secrecy - whether by words or writing, by signs or in any other way - are absolutely obliged to avoid this, lest they incur the penalty of excommunication."

All those taking the oath had to be approved for their jobs by the Vatican administration and three cardinals.

The Vatican didn't say how many affected, but official photographs of the event showed several dozen people, including nuns, prelates and lay people, waiting to take their turn in the Aula delle Benedizioni of the Apostolic Palace.

Most will only have contact with the cardinals when they are outside the Sistine Chapel, but still might learn something of what goes on inside. A food server, for example, might overhear a conversation between cardinals at dinner or an elevator operator could catch the name of a cardinal who fared well during a particular ballot.

The Vatican also released the text of a message signed by John Paul on Feb. 22, just two days before he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. He died April 2 at age 84.

In the message for World Mission Sunday, John Paul urged the faithful to learn from the examples of missionaries who have been killed for their faith.

"How many missionary martyrs in our day!" it said. "The church has need of men and women willing to consecrate themselves wholly to the great cause of the Gospel."

In this picture released by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Friday, April 15, 2005, workers prepare the Sistine Chapel for next week's Vatican conclave. Starting Monday, April 18, 115 Cardinals from all over the world will hold closed-door meetings in the Sistine Chapel, decorated by Michelangelo's Last Judgement, in background, to elect the next head of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

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

Workers Attach Chimney Pipe for Conclave

Apr 15, 1:27 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Workers scaled the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Friday and attached the chimney pipe that will bellow white smoke to alert the world that a new pope has been elected, and Vatican employees with access to the cardinals at next week's conclave took an oath of secrecy.

Attached by a safety clip and cable, a worker inched down the tiled roof and uncapped a small top that had covered the chimney. He replaced it with a tall, thin pipe fed to him by another man in dress pants and a tie who stood in an opening in the chapel's roof.

The conclave begins Monday. Starting that afternoon, the cardinals will send up smoke signals from the burned ballot papers of the vote to indicate whether they have found a successor to Pope John Paul II. Black smoke means no pope has been elected; white smoke signals a new pope.

The smoke is made by the burned ballot papers from each vote, treated with special chemicals to make it black or white.

Later Friday, housekeepers, drivers and others with access to cardinals during the conclave took an oath of secrecy, promising never to reveal the selection details unless the new pontiff himself authorizes it.

With one hand on the book of the Gospels, each of the officials and aides also swore they would refrain from using any audio or video equipment during the closed-door vote or face the severest of punishments the church can mete out: excommunication.

"I will observe absolute and perpetual secrecy with all who are not part of the College of Cardinal electors concerning all matters directly or indirectly related to the ballots cast and their scrutiny for the election of the supreme pontiff," they intoned at the ceremony in the Apostolic Palace. "So help me God and these Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand."

The preparations came as the College of Cardinals, who are running the church in the absence of a pope, held their second-to-last meeting before the conclave.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the 138 cardinals present spent the entire meeting discussing the problems of the church in the world. Cardinals who headed Vatican congregations and councils also discussed problems in their offices, he said.

The Vatican also released the text of a message signed by John Paul on Feb. 22, just two days before he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe.

In the message, written for World Mission Sunday, John Paul urged the faithful to learn from the examples of missionaries who have been killed for their faith.

"How many missionary martyrs in our day!" read the message. "The church has need of men and women willing to consecrate themselves wholly to the great cause of the Gospel."

John Paul died on April 2 at age 84.

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