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Theological Notebook: Sunday Night's Pre-Conclave Update

I guess this is the last set of the pre-conclave stories. Allen's, which kicks off the set, is as interesting as ever. Glance at the others, if you'd like. I include a picture of the seven U.S. Cardinals participating, minus Cardinal Law and the Ukranian papabile, who also has U.S. citizenship.

Getting to know you: Cardinals with little connection to Rome have missed out on informal gatherings

By John L. Allen, Jr.

Tonight the 115 cardinals who will elect the next pope will move into the Domus Sanctae Marthae, marking a sort of early start to their isolation during the conclave, and all indications are they can use the time. Several cardinals have told NCR in recent days that the situation is still quite fluid, with no clear consensus on candidates, and this in part because many cardinals simply have not had the opportunity to take part in the informal discussions that generally unfold in the week between the pope’s funeral and the first ballot inside the Sistine Chapel.

The reality, according to these sources, is that there appears to be an inner core of cardinals, comprised of Italians, veterans of the Roman Curia, and other cardinals well-connected in Rome, who have been meeting over lunches, dinners, and informal get-togethers, presumably groping towards a sense of who they might be able to support as the next pope.

Another group of cardinals, however, including non-Italian speakers and pastoral figures from distant regions who do not know Rome or their brother cardinals very well, have not been much engaged in these conversations. Hence one “x factor” heading into the balloting is whether these “second-tier” cardinals will simply join whatever consensus seems to be emerging, or whether they will steer the voting in unexpected directions. Since many of these more disengaged cardinals seem to be from the global South, it’s possible that their swing votes could bring an interest geographic dimension to the election of the next pope.

“People who know each other have been getting together,” one cardinal said. “But larger groups have only had maybe one or two chances to talk with each other, to get a sense of what they need to know.”

A cardinal, speaking to NCR on background April 17, said that the situation remained unclear in terms of who might emerge as the next pope. He said the cardinals were still struggling with to get to know each other, beyond the brief biographical material that was distributed at the beginning of the General Congregation meetings.

He compared the situation to the situation described in the Acts of the Apostles, when the 11 apostles drew lots to replace Judas, relying on chance and divine inspiration rather than informed deliberations.

“The Holy Spirit is going to have to work overtime,” he joked.

He also compared his expectations of the early round of voting to what happens when religious orders hold chapter meetings to elect their superiors.

“You look for a straw vote to indicate directions,” he said. “I’m not very sure what will happen at the moment. I wouldn’t exclude anybody.”

Yesterday the veil of secrecy surrounding the conclave was lifted just for an instant, and members of the press were allowed inside the Apostolic Palace, to make the brief walk from outside the Pauline Chapel across the Sala Regia to the Sistine Chapel, were the election of the next pope will take place. We saw the 12 tables with groups of nine or 11 chairs where the cardinals will sit, on an elevated platform with blocking devices underneath which allegedly will impede any communication with cell phones or other electronic devices. (Maybe the system wasn’t fully operational yet, but I can report that I was able to make a cell phone call to my wife from about two feet away from where one group of cardinals will sit).

We also saw the stove, or rather stoves, where the ballots will be burned and chemicals added to produce the black or white smoke, signifying a unsuccessful or successful vote. It’s a new system, where the ballots are burned in one stove while another generates compressed air to send the smoke billowing up the chimney, which is now clearly visible from the outside.

Speaking April 17, a cardinal told NCR that they hope was still for a conclave that does not go on very long, because the cardinals do not want to give the world the impression that the pope has been elected by a faction. Pope John XXIII once said that the pope has to be pope both for those with their foot on the brake, and those with their foot on the gas. In other words, he has to be everybody’s pope, not just the leader of one party or the other. A long, divided conclave risks that impression.

Given the dynamics that appear to be taking shape, however, with a large chunk of cardinals entering the conclave without a clear sense of who the leading candidates may be or who they plan to vote for, it may still be the case that we have to wait a few days to see those stoves churn out white smoke.

Cardinals Prepare for Monday's Papal Conclave

Apr 17, 12:06 PM (ET)

By Crispian Balmer

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Roman Catholic cardinals moved into sequestered lodgings Sunday ahead of a conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, with no clear favorite in sight to take charge of the 1.1 billion-member Church.

The 115 cardinals eligible to vote will all stay in a specially-built residence within the Vatican, dining together on Sunday night before entering their secretive conclave in the Sistine Chapel Monday afternoon.

Before being shut off from the outside world, some of the red-hatted "princes of the church" held public Masses around a rainswept Rome Sunday in which they sought to emphasize the spiritual nature of their quest.

"People think that we are going to vote like in an election. But this is something completely different. We are going to listen to the Lord and listen to the Holy Spirit," Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said in a homily.

None of the cardinals would be drawn on possible contenders.

"I believe the Holy Spirit already knows, but he hasn't told us yet," said Mexican cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera.

In the run-up to the vote, much media speculation has centered on John Paul's closest aide and arch-ideologue Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, suggesting that the German prelate might head initial balloting. Ratzinger, 78, also tops betting Web sites.

Ratzinger led the funeral Mass for John Paul on April 8, but many Vatican watchers doubt whether a man whose conservative dogma has polarized the Roman Catholic world could gain the two-thirds majority needed to become pope himself.


That could leave the field open to a compromise candidate who could bridge the numerous factions that have risen up within the largest religious organization in the world during John Paul's high-profile 26-year pontificate.

The cardinals will hold up to four ballots a day until they reach the necessary majority to elect the 264th successor to the first pope, St. Peter.

Of the eight 20th century conclaves, none took longer than five days, and two were completed on the second day. It took just eight ballots over three days to choose the relatively unknown Karol Wojtyla of Poland as Pope John Paul in 1978.

The cardinals are due to hold a public Mass Monday morning in St. Peter's Basilica. At 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) they will file into the Sistine Chapel to start their deliberations.

In the build-up to the vote, some 15 cardinals have been promoted in the press as potential popes, including Italians Dionigi Tettamanzi and Angelo Scola, Brazil's Claudio Hummes, Nigeria's Francis Arinze and the Honduran Maradiaga.

Before Wojtyla's election Italy had held the papacy for 455 years. Many Italians hope they will now reclaim it and fear that if they fail, they may have lost their privileged position for good as the Church becomes increasingly international.

Among the major issues facing the cardinals are the growing spiritual poverty of Europe, the material poverty of the third world and devolution of power within the Church.

Critics of John Paul said he focused too much power in the hands of the Vatican and smothered theological debate.


The cardinals themselves have taken an unusual vow of media silence ahead of the conclave, adding to a sense of uncertainty and intrigue within the male-dominated Church hierarchy.

"It's very hard to know what's going on in the Church, we feel that it's a different world from where we are," said Sister Emanuel, who works in Australia and is on a retreat in Rome.

The conclave will be like no other election in the world.

There will be no press briefings after the ballots, no spin doctors promoting their candidates, just a simple puff of smoke from the Sistine chimney -- black smoke for an inconclusive vote and white smoke when a new pope is chosen.

In preparation for an eventual decision, Vatican workers have put up red curtains on the balcony of St. Peter's where the new pontiff will make his first appearance to the world.

In the hours leading to Monday's lock-up, leading Catholics made final public appeals to the cardinals about the sort of pope they wanted to see step onto the balcony.

"Dear brothers, choose someone who will guarantee the freedom and openness of the Church," Swiss theologian Hans Kueng, one of the Church's most prominent liberal dissenters, said in an article in La Stampa newspaper.

Whoever wins will have a hard act to follow. John Paul not only dominated his own Church but was a leading player on the geo-political stage, helping undermine Communism in Europe.

"It is a painful moment for us, having lost Pope John Paul. I hope they will be able to choose a man as great as the one we lost," Mina Potenza, an elderly housewife from Rome, said as she visited St. Peter's Sunday.

Cardinals Check in to Secure Vatican Hotel

Apr 17, 2:08 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Bringing their suitcases and personal views on the future of the church, the cardinals who will select the next pope settled in their rooms Sunday in the Vatican hotel that will be their home until the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics have a new leader.

The conclave starts Monday after the 115 red-robed cardinals join a formal procession into the Sistine Chapel, where efforts to maintain the secrecy of deliberations have included installing jamming devices to foil sophisticated eavesdropping equipment.

But the cardinals' arrival at the $20 million Domus Sanctae Marthae took them into the imposed isolation of the papal election - which has not lasted longer than five days in the past century but remains an open-ended process. The last conclave in 1978 took eight ballots over three days to choose Pope John Paul II.

"The new pope has already been chosen by the Lord. We just have to pray to understand who he is," Florence Cardinal Ennio Antonelli told the congregation at St. Andrea delle Fratte, his titular church a short stroll from Rome's famous Spanish Steps.

The cardinals have much to ponder following the third-longest papacy in history.

This conclave feels the full weight of the church's modern challenges, including the influence of Islam, competition from evangelical Christians, the fallout from priest sex scandals, the roles of women and the need to reconcile Vatican teachings that ban condom use with worries about AIDS. They also must seek a global pastor with enough charisma to flourish in an image-driven age.

For the first time, credible papal contenders come from at least three distinct regions: Europe, Africa and Latin America.

One by one, in cars driven by aides through a steady rain, the cardinals arrived at the gates of Vatican City. They were saluted by a single Swiss Guard, wearing a dark foul-weather cloak over his traditional purple-gold-and-red uniform. The cars passed over the gray cobblestones to the hotel - which John Paul ordered built to end the spartan and makeshift quarters arranged for past conclaves.

The rules of the conclave are strict: no phones, television, publications or outside contact. All staff - including cooks, maids, elevator operators and drivers who will shuttle them the few hundred yards from the hotel to the Sistine Chapel - have taken vows of silence.

For the first time ever, 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. The penalty is severe - excommunication.

At the North American College seminary, some of the 11 U.S. cardinals joining the conclave posed for a group photograph before making the five-minute trip to the Vatican. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles carried a set of red robes in a clear garment bag and a small overnight bag hung from one shoulder. They made no comments to reporters.

The Turin daily newspaper La Stampa reported that many cardinals, preparing for a stressful stretch ahead, had packed compact disc players and headphones along with prayer books and their red hats. Other prelates, it reported, brought along favorite snacks.

The public will get one more chance to view the cardinals before they begin their deliberations. On Monday morning, a special Mass at St. Peter's Basilica is scheduled in the memory of John Paul, who died April 2 at the age of 84 and is buried with many other popes in the grottoes reached by stairs near the altar.

Later in the day, the cardinals will gather in the Apostolic Palace for a procession to the Sistine Chapel while chanting a hymn seeking inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

The cardinals then hear a prayer in Latin by the dean of the College of Cardinals, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to be guided "in our hearts in love and in patience." Ratzinger, 78, is considered a possible papal candidate.

Once inside the chapel, the prelates can decide to hold a single ballot. If not, they will begin voting Tuesday morning with four ballots a day. At least 77 votes - or two-thirds of attending - are needed to elect a pontiff during initial balloting. Under rules updated in 1996 by the late pontiff, it could shrink to a simple majority at some point in the second week.

Another new element comes with this conclave: Bells will ring after a new pope is chosen in an effort to avoid confusion over the color of smoke wafting from the chapel's chimney. The smoke is black if balloting fails to produce a pontiff and white if a choice is made.

The next pope's name will be announced from the central balcony of the basilica a short time later.

Italians - who hold the largest national bloc in the conclave with 20 cardinals - apparently have struggled to reach a consensus on whether to back one of their own for the papacy, wrote Marco Politi, Vatican expert for the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The Polish-born John Paul was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Several Italians have been mentioned as papal prospects, including Milan Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi.

Cardinals who are under 80 years old and allowed to participate in the conclave agreed not to give interviews during their daily meetings to prepare for the gathering. The source for La Repubblica's assessment was not mentioned.

Italian Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, who at 86 is too old to vote, indicated in remarks on Italian state radio Sunday that he believed his younger peers would be looking for a candidate who would be in tune with global problems - particularly issues of justice, peace and even the environment.

"Providence sends a pope (to meet the needs) of every era," he said.

Italians Don't Need Pope to Be From Italy

Apr 17, 2:43 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, and many analysts say the Italians are desperate to reclaim the papacy. But ordinary Italians on the streets say the new pope need not be one of them.

On Monday, 115 cardinals will sequester themselves inside the Sistine Chapel to choose a new leader for the Roman Catholic Church. Italy has the biggest national group, but the bloc of 20 cardinals is not big enough for them to pick a pope on their own.

"He doesn't need to be Italian. He can be from China. He can be from Japan," said Marisa Devito, a 53-year-old waitress at a restaurant near St. Peter's Square. "The important thing is that he be a good pope."

John Paul's election in 1978 broke the centuries-long tradition of naming Italians to the post. Vatican observers have said many Italians expect to get the papacy back this time, but that does not bear out on the streets.

"For us, the best would be a Latin American pope," said Annelo Francesco, 64, wiping a glass on his newsstand near St. Peter's Square. "There would be more business, because more people would come from Latin America."

Latin America has 20 voting cardinals - and nearly half the church's followers. Some analysts believe that to recognize the importance of its Latin American flock, the church will need to name the first pope from the other side of the Atlantic.

"I'd like him to be Italian because I'm Italian, but in the end it wouldn't make a difference," said Roberto Brunetti, 34. "There's no difference: Latin, African."

Cardinal Francis Arinze, of Nigeria, is seen as a contender.

Paramedic Ugo Ruggeri, leaning against an ambulance at St. Peter's Square in a fluorescent yellow uniform, said he talks about the papal election with his colleagues at work and with his friends at the bar, and he has not heard from anyone fixed on the idea of a pope from their own country.

"The important thing is the ideas, so why not a Latin American or a Nigerian?" he asked. "We never talk about how he needs to be Italian."

"This desire for an Italian, it's just nationalism," added Pascuale Forgione, a 70-year-old retired economist entering a church nearby. "The pope is above all that."

Team U.S.A.:

From left, US Cardinals Justin Rigali, Adam Joseph Maida, Edward Egan, Roger Michael Mahony, Francis Eugene George, William Henry Keeler and Theodore Edgar McCarrick pose at the North American College in Rome, Sunday, April 17, 2005. Cardinals had a few last hours to confer with aides Sunday or pray with faithful before they were required to check-in at the Domus Sanctae Martae at the Vatican, where they will be sequestered during the conclave in the Sistine Chapel to elect the next pope. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, pool)

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

The underside of the issue

By Joan Chittister, OSB

“All of life,” the playwright Tennessee Williams wrote, “is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the questions.” It is the role of questions in the development of the faith that has become one of the most common topics of conversation surrounding the election of a new pope.

But let the reader beware: Questions and the answers they prompt are often as important as the material that generates them. This week, for instance, the international “We Are Church” group focused first on the woman’s issue as a key topic for a new papacy to consider. The questions reporters asked and the answers they got to them only exposed the problem even more.

“Can you imagine,” Tom Roberts, editor of NCR, asked Professor Adriana Valerio of Naples, “a forum in which this discussion (about women’s issues) could take place?”

The response, I thought, stung a bit in its directness. “Six hundred women theologians of Europe work constantly to bring the debate of these questions to the world,” she said.

The implications of the simple answer were themselves damning. Women are publishing, researching, holding public and professional discussions, talking about these things every way they know how, but institutions, especially the church, refuse to address the issue. As a result, every day more and more women become conscious of the inadequacy, the disinterest, of the very groups that claim to protect their rights, to guard their dignity, to honor their very beings

“This is not a woman’s problem,” she went on. “This is about the Church and its unity. We don’t speak about women; we are talking about the church.” When you look at the issue from that point of view, it is clear that you are using the topic that regards half the population of the globe as a measure, not of the value of women, but as a gauge of the basic morality of the institutions that deal with them, including the church.

A reporter from the Catholic News Service asked: “In regard to the revision of textbooks (which you are calling for) what women would you put in them and is this being done?” I thought instantly of the present hagiography of women saints written almost entirely from the point of view of the virtues defined for them by men their chastity, their obedience, their self-sacrifice, their devotion and waited myself to hear who or what she would include. I wasn’t surprised to hear her take another direction entirely. “Women have spoken and written texts that are invisible today,” she said. “They are lost to the historical memory of the church. The first thing a new pope would have to do is to give people freedom of speech. Women theologians have none in the church. If she speaks in public, it’s because she speaks at a secular university. If she taught in a Catholic university and said these things, she would be punished. This includes males who themselves support women's ideas, as well.”

A reporter from Reuter’s News Agency pushed the question to its obvious end: Did Pope John Paul II hear these demands and questions directly? Did the things you want happen?

Valerio’s answer to this one went to the core of the problem. “This question relates to the bishops as well as the pope,” she said. “Of course the pope could meet with us. We would be more than happy to do so but the bishops have a responsibility (to take this issue to the center of the church) and see that the studies are begun.”

In three questions that would have been seen as innocuous if applied to almost any other social issue, the whole situation was laid bare for all to see:

First, women are trying to be heard and are being ignored.

Second, women’s ideas are being smothered in Catholic circles by being pushed to the outside edges of the institution.

Third, bishops in a special way are required to bring to the center of the church the needs of all the members of the church. Clearly they must not be doing that or the issue would be getting the attention it deserves. If the pope is not hearing all the questions, then bishops are as responsible for the lack of theological development in the church as is the pope himself.

The answers may disturb some people but what is even more disturbing, perhaps, is the thought that the questions might never have been asked. Worse, they might not have been answered so honestly. Surely Tennessee Williams was right.
However difficult the answers may be to understand, we must still “believe in the dignity and importance of the question.”

Rating the Papabile

Apr. 16 ( - An attempt to predict the outcome of a papal election is, by its nature, a very risky business, and readers should be constantly reminded that a conclave will often produce unexpected results. With that caution emphasized clearly from the outset, CWR offers these thoughts on the leading candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II (bio - news).

In the list that follows, we appraise the chances of the one clear favorite, a dozen possible contenders, and three "longshot" candidates for the pontificate.

Almost certainly, the next Pope will be one of the 115 cardinal-electors entering the conclave on April 18. Of these, 58 are from Europe, 20 from Latin America, 14 from North America, 11 from Africa, 10 from Asia, and 2 from Australia and the Pacific. The new Bishop of Rome is not likely to be a native of the Eternal City; none of the cardinal-electors was raised in Rome.

The Favorite

By virtually all accounts, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will be the main focus of attention as the conclave begins. He is not only the dean of the College of Cardinals, but also without a doubt the dominant personality among the electors.

As the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the closest allies of Pope John Paul II-- a colleague so highly valued that the late Pope re-appointed the German cardinal several times, overriding Ratzinger's desire to return to his native Bavaria. Yet although he was clearly the right-hand man of the late Pontiff, Cardinal Ratzinger has his own clear vision for the future of the Church, which he has expressed clearly in speeches and published works like the best-selling book-length interview known as The Ratzinger Report. He stands for a bold proclamation of Catholic doctrine and an energetic defense of Christian culture-- even, if necessary, as a minority in a secularized European society.

A theologian who participated in Vatican II (where he was associated with the liberal faction), Cardinal Ratzinger's intellectual prowess is unquestioned. After more than 2 decades in the Roman Curia, he knows the ways of the Vatican well, yet he also has pastoral experience as the former Archbishop of Munich.

Disadvantages: At 78 (today is his birthday), Cardinal Ratzinger may be perceived as too old for the rigors of the papacy. He has a history of heart problems which, while mild in themselves, are enough to heighten that concern.

More important, Cardinal Ratzinger has been a lightning-rod for controversy both within the Church (because of his disciplinary action against wayward theologians) and outside (because of his insistence that Christ is the sole means to salvation). His public image as the authoritarian Panzerkardinal, although it is completely at odds with his mild personality, would make him the target of vitriolic attacks by secular liberals.

Until recent weeks, those obvious drawbacks seemed to be enough to eliminate Cardinal Ratzinger from serious consideration as a candidate for the papacy. Yet as the cardinals gathered in Rome, their thoughts turned toward him. As they begin their deliberations, the cardinals will all face the same initial question: whether to vote for, or against, Cardinal Ratzinger. No other prelate commands nearly the same consideration. Even if he is not the 265th Pontiff, his support could be crucial to the conclave's eventual choice.

A Dozen Possibilities

1. Cardinal Francis Arinze has spent the past 20 years in the Roman Curia-- first as president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, then (since 2002) as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Consecrated a bishop at the remarkably young age of 33, he was Archbishop of Onitska, Nigeria, for 17 years before his summons to the Vatican. He is widely traveled, articulate, and staunchly orthodox. His age, 72, might be seen as ideal. His background in a country where Christians must confront the challenge of militant Islam is an asset. He is certainly the leading African candidate, and perhaps the foremost of all the papabile from Third World nations. Disadvantages: Cardinal Arinze's penchant for plain speech can ruffle feathers, and some electors view him as unpredictable.

2. Cardinal Angelo Scola is the Patriarch of Venice, the archdiocese that produced 3 Popes (Pius X, John XXIII, and John Paul I) in the 20th century. A polyglot, a reliably orthodox theologian, and former rector of the Lateran University, he is associated with the Communion and Liberation movement. He has taken a particular interest in promoting the Gospel in Arabic countries-- an interest that could be useful as Christianity confronts the challenge of rising Islam. Attractive and energetic, he has moved to the fore quickly among the Italian cardinals since receiving his red hat in 2003. Disadvantages: A comparatively young man at 63, Cardinal Scola comes from a family with a history of longevity that might give pause to electors with concerns about the prospect of another long pontificate.

3. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan is the candidate most highly touted by the Italian media. He has headed three large Italian sees: Ancona, Genoa, and now Milan, the largest archdiocese in Europe. He is regarded as a "moderate" candidate-- striking a balance between his predecessor in Milan, Carlo Maria Martini, a leader of "progressive" forces within the Church, and Cardinal Ratzinger. An expert in bioethics and sexual morality, he was heavily involved in the drafting of the papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (doc). He has also been outspoken in questioning the globalization of the world's economic system. Cardinal Tettamanzi draws support from across the spectrum of political and theological opinions. Disadvantages: Although he enjoys working with the media, Cardinal Tettamanzi is far from telegenic, and his lack of facility with languages-- he does not speak English-- would contrast sharply with the communications skills of Pope John Paul II.

4. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of the Rome diocese, and president of the Italian bishops' conference, is yet another Italian prelate who will receive serious consideration, particularly in light of his friendship with Cardinal Ratzinger. He has emerged in the past few years as a major factor in Italian political debates, particularly on the country's involvement in Iraq and the campaign for a new law on assisted reproduction. Disadvantages: His quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 2000 raised questions about his health. There are also concerns about his lack of personal charm and international experience.

5. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires could be the foremost among the Latin American papabile, and is widely regarded as the one most likely to earn Cardinal Ratzinger's support. A Jesuit, he is respected as a philosopher and theologian, but especially as a pastor who has emphasized spiritual principles to his Argentine flock in the midst of their economic crises. Disadvantages: No Jesuit has ever become Roman Pontiff, and it seems unlikely that record would be broken at a time when the Society of Jesus is noted for dissent and declining vocations.

6. Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Sao Paulo is another leading Latin American contender. The Franciscan head of the largest diocese in the world's most populous Catholic nation, he has a reputation for concern about poverty and Church social doctrine, and close ties with the charismatic renewal. Disadvantages: Some electors question the cardinal's friendly ties with Brazil's mercurial leftists President "Lula" da Silva. Chosen by Pope John Paul II to preach the Lenten Retreat at the Vatican in 2002, he failed to impress many observers.

7. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna is a brilliant young Dominican prelate from an illustrious noble family with ties to the Hapsburg empire. Once a student of Cardinal Ratzinger, he was the principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; in Austria he is one of the more innovative promoters of the "new evangelization" of Europe. Disadvantages: The Church in Austria has been wracked by controversy and scandal. And a young (60) theologian from central Europe might be seen as too similar to Pope John Paul II.

8. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a member of the Salesian order and Archbishop of Genoa, served as Cardinal Ratzinger's right-hand man for 7 years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Respected and affable, he could emerge as a compromise candidate among the Italian prelates. Disadvantages: Cardinal Bertone's gregarious nature can detract from the gravitas expected in a Roman Pontiff; other prelates looked askance when he served as color-commentator for television broadcasts of soccer games, and shook hands with mourners outside the Vatican basilica during the obsequies for Pope John Paul II.

9. Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels may be the leading candidate for the "progressive" wing of the College of Cardinals, now that Cardinal Martini (mentioned above) has retired. The successor to another noted liberal voice, Cardinal Leo Suenens, he has staked out his position as a proponent of democracy within the Church, and distanced himself from Vatican statements on controversial issues such as the use of condoms and the role of women. Disadvantages: Cardinal Danneels, too, has a history of heart trouble. More to the point, this conclave will not support a liberal candidate.

10. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re is the ultimate Vatican "insider." He was the powerful sostituto who handled the day-to-day flow of Vatican paperwork from 1989 until 2001, when he became prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, supervising the appointments of bishops all around the world. No one questions his administrative abilities; indeed he is widely perceived as the natural choice to become Secretary of State in the next pontificate. Disadvantages: Cardinal Re has spent his priestly ministry almost exclusively in administrative roles; he has never been a diocesan bishop or even a pastor.

11. Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec is another trained theologian, a Sulpician who studied with the late, renowned, Hans Urs von Balthasar. A specialist in ecumenical affairs-- he was secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity-- he also taught at the pontifical institute for study of marriage and the family before taking his present post in Canada, where he has been heavily involved in debates on same-sex marriage. Disadvantages: Another 60-year-old theology specialist, he has not had time-- since his appointment in 2002-- to reform a chaotic Canadian archdiocese.

12. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiagua of Tegulcigalpa is the first Honduran ever elevated to the College of Cardinals. A Salesian cleric with a distinct gift for working with the media, he is at ease with several languages, having taught in Rome, Austria, and the US as well as Central America. A former head of the Latin American bishops' conference CELAM, he is regarded as moderately liberal on both political and theological issues. Disadvantages: Perhaps a bit too young (62), he may have undermined his liberal standing with a highly publicized outburst in October 2002, in which he said that the sex-abuse scandal in the US was a case of media "persecution" of the Catholic Church.

Three Longshots

While unlikely to win the conclave's support, these three prelates pose intriguing possibilities for consideration:

13. Cardinal Audrys Backis of Vilnius, Lithuania is approximately the right age, at 68; he has the right experience in both the Vatican diplomatic corps (with postings in the Philippines, Costa Rica, Turkey, and Nigeria) and the Roman Curia (the powerful Secretariat of State). Disadvantages: The conclave probably will not choose another prelate from the former Soviet empire.

14. Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay is one of the few prelates who can rival Pope John Paul's linguistic ability; he is fluent in at least 17 languages. Another veteran of the Vatican diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State, he now heads a huge diocese in an often hostile environment. A friend and ally of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he has protested the anti-Christian attacks by Hindu zealots, yet observes that for the Church, "persecution is something natural," often presaging a great growth in the faith. Disadvantages: When speculation turns toward a Pontiff from the Third World, most prelates speak about Africa or Latin America, where Catholicism is growing-- not Asia, where the faith remains largely unknown.

15. Cardinal Lubomyr Husar is the Major Archbishop of Kiev, the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is the largest Eastern Church in full communion with the Holy See. The selection of a Byzantine prelate would be a sensational move, sure to cause turmoil in Vatican relations with the Orthodox churches, with results that are difficult to predict. Trivia note: Cardinal Husar is the only US citizen on this list.

John Paul II gets mixed reviews from religious congregations

By Stacy Meichtry

In the weeks since the death of Pope John Paul II, numerous metaphors have been trotted out to characterize his global influence. Heads of state have praised him as a bridge-builder; the faithful have described him as a father figure.

To the million-plus men and women who form Roman Catholicism’s religious communities, however, figurative speech doesn’t capture John Paul’s influence. To them, the pope was an authority figure in both a moral and literal sense. He had the power to change one’s world view as well as one’s daily routine. In his absence, the reviews of his reign, if not the metaphors, were mixed.

Such ambivalence set the scene at a recent memorial Mass for the religious at St. Peter’s Basilica. Hundreds of religious filed past metal detectors and into the pews Friday to honor the late pope. Some came in groups wearing veils and habits that identified their orders. Others came alone, clad in “modified” habits easily mistaken for plain street clothes. Throughout the mass, their facial expressions ranged from stoic to stone-faced.

John Paul “always reserved a privileged place for those who answered the call of the Lord,” Archbishop Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti told the massive audience in a sermon. As Secretary of the Congregation for the Religious under John Paul, Nesti was a top bureaucrat who oversaw matters large and small for religious orders worldwide. Bureaucracy, however, was not the focus of Nesti’s sermon. Instead he sought to convey a message of moral support—one that John Paul had rigorously repeated to the religious over his 26-year pontificate. “Be not discouraged,” Nesti boomed.

What discourages many religious is their incessant decline in numbers. John Paul presided over the sharpest drop of religious men and women in church history—a sea change now recognized as a full-blown institutional crisis. When John Paul took office in 1978, the number of religious women worldwide stood at 991,768. That number has since fallen by more than 20 percent, according to the 2002 Statistical Yearbook, the Vatican’s most recent statistical compendium. The crisis facing religious men, meanwhile, is even deeper. As of 2002, there were 54,828 religious men worldwide compared to 75,802 in 1978.

Even as Nesti delivered his sermon, John Paul was still getting in his last words of encouragement. Minutes before the Mass, the Vatican released a message from John Paul to the religious that had been signed in February in preparation for World Missionary Sunday in October. The message was translated into six languages including Chinese. “How many martyrs in our day!” the message read. “The Church has need of men and women willing to consecrate themselves wholly to the great cause of the Gospel.”

Most religious do not directly blame John Paul for the crisis, even through it deepened under his watch. A combination of unsympathetic demographics and shifting sociological trends are the real culprits, they say. Simply put, the rate of incoming vocations no longer offsets the annual death rate of religious men and women as it did in the earlier half of the 20th century. Although new vocations are on the rise in developing countries in Asia and Africa, that growth is not robust enough to counterbalance shortfalls in the developed world, namely Europe.

That said, many religious are hoping the next pontificate will go beyond John Paul’s words of encouragement. Can the next pope stop the bleeding or will he ignore it?

“We can’t give into anxiety,” said Br. Paul Bednarczyk, director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, based in Chicago. Despite the declining numbers Bednarczyk looks back on John Paul’s papacy as a period of renewal, especially among young people. He praised John Paul for creating a day of worldwide recognition for the religious (February 2) and for producing the 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata. Culled from ideas expressed at a 1994 synod, Vita Consecrata aimed to addressed religious life in modern contexts, including the need to involve religious women “in different fields and at all levels” of the church. John Paul “was well aware of the struggles we face,” Bednarczyk said. “If religious life is a gift to the church then you have to take responsibility for it.”

But many argue that responsibility was precisely what John Paul lacked when it came to the religious. Sr. Camilla Burns, who is based in Rome as the Superior General of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, couldn’t recall the last time her order had an appointment at the Vatican. Reached by telephone in Boston, Burns said what stuck out in her mind was the pope’s failure to turn up at an international assembly for religious held in Rome last November. “A year ago they got a commitment (from the Vatican) to meet with the pope. It was a great opportunity to meet 850 religious from around the world. But when the time came something else was scheduled. It created great sadness,” she said. “And he wasn’t ill that day,” she added.

Among the groups organizing the assembly was the Rome-based International Union of Superiors General (UISG), headed by Sr. Victoria Gonzales. Thinking back on John Paul’s relations with religious women, Gonzales concluded: “He didn’t know much about religious life. It just wasn’t his strong point. He wanted what he saw in Poland--nuns walking around with big habits.”

Burns, meanwhile, is hoping for a change of both style and substance. Religious life will continue to languish, she believes, as long as the Vatican maintains its gender gap. Should the next pope also call for the greater involvement of women in the Church, Burns hopes that he’ll depart from the caveats that defined John Paul’s stance. Vita Consecrata provides a good example of this logic. On one hand the pope calls for the advancement of women at “all levels” of Church life. On the other, he warns women against treading upon the toes of the opposite sex, urging them to "promote a 'new feminism' which rejects the temptation of imitating models of 'male domination.'"

“Some young women are so distressed about the church and the role of women, or the lack thereof,” Burns said. “They’re just not willing to throw their lot in anymore.”

Nowhere was the power divide more apparent than at Friday’s Mass. Clerics occupied the sanctuary. Seminarians took up the pews within an earshot of the altar. And behind them sat the laity, whose numbers were dominated by religious women donning short veils and flowing habits. A half-hour into the ceremony, their ranks began to show signs of fatigue as Nesti’s sermon bounced off the basilica walls in dissonant echoes. One woman rested her head against a massive column and appeared to doze off.

“That allowed them to find great consensus on the general themes faced in the discussions,” he said, adding: “I can also confirm that in no congregation were names ever brought up.”

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