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Theological Notebook: My Picks

For those of you who've been asking who I'd like to see win the See, my papal picks are listed below with the brief bios provided on the Catholic News Service website. I don't think that they convey why I like the idea of one of these as Pope. For most of them, it's because they fulfill my own chief emphases or desires for the papacy (as such, perhaps not the best of assessment-methods): someone who is theological advanced, who has a "Christ and Culture" and not a "Christ against Culture" way of engaging the secular West. The papabili are presented in no particular order.

Cardinal Lustiger has been the voice of French Catholics

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, retired archbishop of Paris, has been the voice of French Catholics for almost a quarter century, particularly defending the right of believers to have a say in public debates.

Born into a Jewish family, the cardinal has also been outspoken in condemning anti-Semitism and promoting dialogue with Jews and with the nation's growing Muslim community.

Known as a gregarious and outspoken church leader, he is expected to be an influential European voice in the conclave.

Cardinal Lustiger defended church-state separation at a time when France was debating whether to ban religious symbols, including head scarves worn by Muslim women, large Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps, in public schools.

In September 2003, he urged a government commission not to "disturb a fragile balance" between church and state by allowing religious symbols at schools.

As an archbishop who has not been shy about discussing his Jewish past -- he once told reporters he still considered himself to be a Jew and had a "dual affiliation" -- Cardinal Lustiger, 78, has received considerable media attention, which he has used to promote interfaith dialogue.

The cardinal, who converted to Catholicism from Judaism, represented the pope Jan. 27 at the commemoration in Poland of the 60th anniversary of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where his Jewish mother died. The first time he visited Auschwitz was in 1983, when he accompanied Pope John Paul II there.

During the 2005 commemoration, Cardinal Lustiger said, "The silence of Auschwitz-Birkenau's victims impels us to uphold and order the upholding of the dignity of each human being."

The cardinal has worked hard to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. In October 1998, the New York-based Center for Christian-Jewish understanding gave him its "Nostra Aetate" award, named for the declaration on non-Christian religions issued by the Second Vatican Council.

The previous year, the French bishops issued a five-page declaration confessing that "the church of France failed in her mission as teacher of consciences" by remaining silent while Jews were persecuted in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Cardinal Lustiger was one of the principal figures to present the document at a ceremony near a former Nazi deportation point for French Jews in a Paris suburb.

He has written or edited 20 books, belongs to the prestigious French Academy and is a member of Vatican agencies that deal with bishops, clergy, religious life and Eastern churches.

Born in Paris Sept. 17, 1926, to Polish Jews who had emigrated to France, he was given the name Aaron. His family did not practice its faith, but paid for its Jewish identity with the loss of several members during the Holocaust.

The future cardinal was spared, however, because a Catholic family in Orleans, France, sheltered him and his sister during the war. In 1940, at age 14, he was baptized and took the name Jean-Marie.

He became the bishop of Orleans nearly 40 years later and was elevated to archbishop of Paris in 1981.

Both appointments surprised French Catholics. Cardinal Lustiger said in a later interview that after he was named to Orleans in 1980, he wrote the pope and suggested he might have made a mistake by elevating a parish priest with Jewish heritage to the head of a diocese.

But the pope would hear none of it. Eventually the two church leaders came to express very similar opinions on issues ranging from the value of prayer to the failures of communism.

The cardinal repeatedly has expressed concern for apparent changes in French society's values.

He told a New York audience in 1996 that feminism "might lead our civilization into a blind alley" where equality of opportunities is concerned, because "the difference between man and woman is anthropologically grounded."

More than once, the cardinal has defended the French bishops' practice of weighing in on national political matters, explaining in a 1987 interview that the Catholic Church in France has a right to use its "substantial moral credit" in public affairs.

In 1996, Cardinal Lustiger was received into the French Academy, whose members comprise the country's literary elite. Membership in the academy, established in 1635, is considered as great an honor as holding a high-ranking government post.

Upon his election to the institution in 1995, Cardinal Lustiger said he intended to use his new title to draw attention to modern ethical and moral questions, including the problem of supreme evil raised by the Holocaust.

Italian cardinal willing to re-examine delicate church positions

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although no longer considered a leading candidate to become pope, Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini still is expected to exercise substantial influence within the conclave to elect Pope John Paul II's successor.

Cardinal Martini, 78, retired as archbishop of Milan in 2002 and began living most of each year in Jerusalem where, he said, he continues his Scripture scholarship and prays for peace.

The cardinal is known as a strong pastor and administrator. He once was seen as a leading voice for wider discussion and dialogue on some delicate and controversial church positions, but Biblical studies, Catholic-Jewish dialogue and praying for peace in the Middle East have become the focal points of his retirement.

Cardinal Martini's decision to move to Jerusalem and the fact that he has purchased a burial plot there are concrete reflections of the main points he makes in the speeches and messages he has written in retirement.

In a September 2004 message to a symposium on the Holy Land and interreligious dialogue, the cardinal wrote that Christians who visit Jerusalem should suspend judgment on the political situation there and simply pray for both sides. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become so complicated and painful that even an expert would have trouble sorting it out, he said.

At a November 2004 speech at Rome's Gregorian University, he told Catholics they could not understand their faith unless they understood the Jewish faith practiced by Jesus and his disciples.

"It is vital for the church not only to understand the ancient covenant (between God and the Jewish people) which has endured for centuries in order to launch a fruitful dialogue, but also to deepen our own understanding of who we are as the church," he said.

"It is not enough to be 'anti' anti-Semitism," he said. "We need to build friendships, recognizing our differences, but not allowing them to lead to conflict."

Cardinal Martini also said Christians and Jews must work together on concrete projects of charity, justice and peace, creating mutual trust and fulfilling their religious obligation "to give witness to God's love for humanity."

"Where there is conflict, like in the Middle East, we must be in the middle, promoting dialogue and helping each side to learn the pain of the other," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Martini's leadership as president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences for six years and as a member of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has made him a familiar face among many of his fellow cardinals.

Cardinal Martini has made news with his openness to the possibility of allowing married Latin-rite priests under certain circumstances, ordaining women as deacons and allowing Communion for some divorced Catholics in subsequent marriages not approved by the church.

Priestly celibacy is a "historical decision which could be changed, but I don't think it will be wise to change the decision but to adapt it to the situation of different people," he said in a 1995 interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.

On women's ordination, he said in 1996 that a future Vatican council of the world's bishops "could consider the problem, rethinking the whole question."

At the 1999 European Synod of Bishops, he made waves when he proposed a new churchwide council or assembly to unravel "doctrinal and disciplinary knots" like the shortage of priests, the role of women, the role of laity and the discipline of marriage. His carefully worded remarks reflected his belief that the church would benefit from a wider exercise of collegiality. The idea of a new council was not taken up formally by the synod, but was debated privately among participants, with some supporting the proposal and others dismissing it.

During that synod, Cardinal Martini said he was convinced that the church can best evangelize in the West through dialogue, not demands.

"We cannot force anyone to come to church. We can try to show that, even in a technological and modern society, it is possible for a community to live the Gospel with simplicity and joy," he told Catholic News Service.

Born in Orbassano, near Turin, Italy, Feb. 15, 1927, Carlo Maria Martini entered the Society of Jesus in 1944, was ordained a priest July 13, 1952, and took his final vows as a Jesuit in 1962.

The cardinal, a biblical scholar, never held a parish post. With doctorates in theology and biblical studies, he was a seminary professor in Chieri, Italy, 1958-1961; professor and later rector at the Biblical Institute in Rome, 1967-1978; and rector at Gregorian University from July 1978 until his December 1979 appointment to Milan.

Cardinal Martini became the first Jesuit in 35 years to head an Italian archdiocese when he was named archbishop of Milan. Pope John Paul II ordained him an archbishop Jan. 6, 1980, in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Archdiocese of Milan, with more than 5 million inhabitants and more than 1,100 parishes, has given the church two popes -- Pius XI and Paul VI -- in the last 83 years.

When Cardinal Martini took possession of his new archdiocese, he made a "walk of prayer" through the city, stopping several times to pray for the work of man, for the power of Christian love and for peace.

"Walking through the city, I can imagine so many sufferings behind the walls of the houses," he said. "But in so much sorrow I also see an immense core of generosity."

Cardinal Martini eventually came to be trusted enough that in 1984 a group of northern Italian terrorists turned over three suitcases full of weapons and ammunition to him, in an attempt to encourage mediation between their organization and Italian authorities.

Named to the College of Cardinals in 1983, he was immediately appointed to four different Vatican bodies instead of the one or two on which most new cardinals serve.

The widely traveled Cardinal Martini speaks French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and modern Greek in addition to his native Italian and the ancient languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

As president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences from 1986 to 1993, he played a major role in the 1991 Synod of Bishops for Europe, and he greatly expanded cooperative efforts with Protestant and Orthodox church bodies on the continent.

U.S. bishops have looked to him for guidance when, for example, he was named spiritual director of their 1986 spring meeting in Collegeville, Minn. In that role, he conducted a day of recollection on the first day and presented a series of reflections during morning prayers throughout the meeting.

Outspoken Honduran is one of the Latin America's strongest voices

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa has emerged as one of the College of Cardinals' strongest Latin American voices, especially on social justice issues.

He has called poverty and social injustice the real "weapons of mass destruction" in the 21st century, and in 2004 he said hunger and hardship were the truly "subversive" elements in Latin American society. Globalization is creating a world in which "the greediness of a few is leaving the majority on the margin of history," he warned in 2003.

Some view him as a potential pope. Although relatively young, he has more than 26 years' experience as a bishop. When the 62-year-old prelate received his red hat from Pope John Paul II in 2001, a crowd of Hondurans present at the ceremony hailed him as "Juan Pablo III."

A longtime teacher and professor, Cardinal Rodriguez has a combination of education, charm, outspokenness and international experience that make him popular, especially with Latin American Catholics, who make up more than 40 percent of the world's Catholic population.

And after the globetrotting, media-intense, multilingual papacy of Pope John Paul, many think the next pope will have to have similar charisma.

Cardinal Rodriguez speaks seven languages, is at ease with the media, is an accomplished musician not afraid to play the piano or saxophone in public and can even fly a plane, although he entered the Salesian seminary before he could get a pilot's license.

His candor ruffled some media feathers in the spring of 2002 when he condemned U.S. coverage of the clerical sex abuse scandal, which had been making headlines for months.

Cardinal Rodriguez said priests who are diagnosed pedophiles must leave the priesthood, but they should be given a fair trial and not be the subject of "witch hunts." He said much of the U.S. media was anti-Catholic and that the major networks and newspapers "made themselves protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a persecution of the church."

He also opposed proposals that local bishops turn all allegations of clerical sexual abuse over to civil authorities for investigation and possible prosecution.

"I would be willing to go to jail before harming one of my priests -- I am not a policeman," he said. "I am a priest, a bishop."

Though he would never claim he was a serious candidate for the papacy, the cardinal did say in 2002 that a pope from Latin America would bring the culture's innate sense of hope to the universal church and would be a blessing to the people of the continent.

"I think of what the election of John Paul II meant for ending the conflict between East and West" during the Cold War, he told reporters. "Perhaps a pope from Latin America would be a great impulse for overcoming the North-South divide."

The cardinal's fight against poverty has been waged on several levels: battling for better education for the poor, criticizing corruption in Honduras and throughout the region, and leading the crusade for the alleviation of the heavy foreign debt of the world's poorest nations.

In 2004, he described excessive foreign debt as "a millstone that prevents the people from reaching the resurrection to a better life." As early as 1995-99, when he headed the Latin American bishops' council, or CELAM, the future cardinal promoted pardoning foreign debts of developing countries, such as those in Central America. On more than one occasion he met with leaders of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to try to help find a solution to the issue.

Cardinal Rodriguez has been sensitive to the problems encountered by the world's growing migrant population. He said in 2003 that migrants are often either ignored or humiliated and wrongly seen as usurpers by host countries. At a U.S. conference in late 2004, he warned of "the xenophobia that is growing everywhere" and called for the church to help restore respect for immigrants' dignity.

The cardinal has said an ethical approach to globalization requires that companies make efforts to preserve jobs and create new ones, improve the quality of their goods and services, protect the environment and help their local communities by contributing to social and educational initiatives.

Catholics have an obligation to promote solidarity by helping each person recognize all others as brothers and sisters who have a right to share in the good things life offers, he said. Globalizing solidarity "is not just a task of human promotion," but is an essential part of evangelization because the church is called to be an instrument of people's union with God and with each other, he said in 2003.

Cardinal Rodriguez was also a sharp critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Eight days after the ground war began, he said the "true motives for this conflict are already emerging, and there are frightening economic interests involved. For example, destruction is carried out in order to have a pretext for reconstruction."

Democracy, he said, is not something that can be justified or imposed by war. The Iraqi crisis showed the need for a "serious reflection and rethinking of international law," he said, and added: "The world cannot be placed at the mercy of a group of governing states."

Cardinal Rodriguez is a frequent visitor to the United States, and as head of CELAM in the 1990s he worked with North American church leaders to help forge a new partnership within the Americas. At that time, he often spoke against U.S. deportation of Central Americans.

He presided at a 1996 meeting of Latin American church leaders who called for an end to "the contraceptive imperialism of population control promoted with the use of abortion, sterilization and contraception."

Cardinal Rodriguez also has intervened in national issues in Honduras, calling political leaders to accountability and often acting as a mediator to calm tensions in moments of political confrontation.

At a Feb. 5, 2002, Mass attended by Honduras' president, the president of its congress, the president of its Supreme Court of Justice and dozens of other government officials, the cardinal told them, "Do not forget the poor."

Government service, he told them, must be motivated by justice and by a desire to create better living conditions, peace and human dignity for all the land's inhabitants.

In 1997 he was called upon to lead the ad hoc commission that purged the Honduran military police force in preparation for its transition to civilian control. He had been a strong proponent of the changes, which were considered key to strengthening the incipient democracy.

But when the future cardinal was proposed as the first director of the new civilian force, he quickly rejected the proposition as conflicting with his ecclesiastical functions.

In his first eight years as head of the Tegucigalpa Archdiocese, Cardinal Rodriguez transformed many aspects of its work, particularly by decentralizing the responsibilities of the figure of archbishop, facilitating community-based initiatives and stimulating work in the parishes.

In a 2001 interview with an Italian magazine, the cardinal said: "In my country, Honduras, the church is lay. This may scandalize. We don't even have 400 priests in the entire country, and in a medium-size city of 60,000 inhabitants there is only one priest, who must also care for the faithful spread out in 60 or 80 little villages among the mountains. He simply cannot do it."

So the Catholic Church in Honduras has trained and deployed 15,000 lay "delegates of the word," who evangelize, catechize, lead Sunday liturgies and distribute Communion, he said.

At the same time, he has been strongly critical of the aggressive proselytizing of some Christian sects in Latin America, calling their leaders "entrepreneurs, not pastors."

Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga was born in Tegucigalpa Dec. 29, 1942, entered the Salesians at age 19 and was ordained in Guatemala City June 28, 1970.

In addition to degrees in philosophy and in moral theology, he holds a degree in education with specializations in physics, mathematics, natural sciences and chemistry. He also studied music and music composition in El Salvador, Guatemala and the United States.

From 1963 until 1978 he worked in various teaching posts in Salesian institutes in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, covering various combinations of math, science, music and theology. From 1974 to 1976 he served as secretary of the theological faculty of Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala, where he was academic rector, 1975-78.

Even after being named a cardinal, he continued to teach moral theology at the Catholic University of Honduras.

On Oct. 28, 1978, he was named auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa, and in 1993 he was elevated to archbishop.

In addition to his teaching and pastoral work, he served as general secretary of the Honduran bishops' conference, 1980-88, and was elected to a six-year term as president of the conference in 1997.

He was general secretary of CELAM, 1987-91.

Cardinal Kasper's intellect, attitude could influence conclave

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- German Cardinal Walter Kasper is known for his warm smile, keen intellect and deep commitment to Christian unity, but also for a sense of realism, which does not negate respect for others but is clear about the limits of change possible in the Catholic Church.

Since 2001 the 72-year-old theologian has been president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and president of the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

As members of the College of Cardinals prepared for the April 18 conclave to elect a new pope, Italian newspapers began listing Cardinal Kasper as the possible choice of cardinals looking for a pope who would defend the Catholic faith while listening to others.

"He is a man of proven Catholic orthodoxy, but one who does not leave any path unexplored," said an ecumenist who has worked closely with Cardinal Kasper. "He treats everyone with great respect, but is very realistic about knowing what is possible."

The cardinal's stature as a theologian combined with his open pastoral style when he was bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany, but especially his close relationship with Pope John Paul II meant he was a respected voice within the conclave.

Even as the aging and ailing pope allowed more and more issues to be handled by the heads of Vatican offices, he continued to meet regularly with Cardinal Kasper to discuss progress and problems in the church's ecumenical dialogues, especially with the Russian Orthodox Church.

While devoting his energy to seeking unity with other Christians, Cardinal Kasper has made it clear that the unity Christ desires for his disciples must be based on faith, not compromise.

Ecumenism, he said at conference in November, is not a process through which "the deposit of older traditions is felt to be outdated and is discarded in the name of a so-called progressive understanding of the faith."

"Where this occurs," he said, "there is a real danger of relativism and indifference, of a 'cheap ecumenism,' which in the end makes itself redundant," because if the core of one's faith does not matter, then why bother to be Christian at all?

In his different careers as theologian, bishop and Vatican official, Cardinal Kasper sometimes offered opinions at variance with predominant Vatican thinking on sensitive church issues.

Cardinal Kasper and another respected German theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, engaged in a lively public debate in 2001 over the roles of the local church and the universal church.

In an unusual move for two top Vatican officials, the respectful, but sharp debate was conducted in the pages of scholarly magazines and at conferences where one or the other spoke.

Cardinal Kasper opposed what he called a "one-sided emphasis" on the universal church and a corresponding decline in the authority of local bishops around the world.

Cardinal Ratzinger argued that one could not deny the primacy of the universal church over the local church, especially because the church is a reality that transcends geographical limits.

The 2001 debate was not the first time the two presented well-reasoned arguments on different sides of a church issue.

In 1993, Cardinal Kasper was one of three German bishops who allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion as long as they believed in conscience that their first marriage was invalid.

The policy in Germany was changed a year later at the Vatican's request, but Cardinal Kasper said at the time that the question still needed pastoral and theological attention.

Not long after being named secretary of the Christian unity office in 1999, Cardinal Kasper publicly criticized a Vatican document signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, whom Cardinal Kasper has known for some 40 years.

In a series of public appearances in Germany, Cardinal Kasper said the document, "Dominus Iesus," a declaration that said Protestant communities were not, properly speaking, "churches," lacked sensitivity and was "too brief" in describing the relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities.

At the same time, the ecumenist made it clear his complaints were with the document's tone, not its content, which he said "correctly rejects" attitudes downplaying the need for truth in dialogue.

His outspokenness on sensitive issues has attracted repeated German media attempts to pin him down on the ideological spectrum, but he told reporters in 1999 that he rejects the "conservative versus progressive" schema.

"The current crisis (in the church) is primarily a crisis of faith. Concern for preservation of the faith may mark one as a conservative, but I am convinced that one can only conserve what one simultaneously renews," he said.

"One must renew one's personal faith, but also the structures," he said.

Born in 1933 in Heidenheim, Germany, Walter Kasper was ordained to the priesthood in 1957. He worked for a year in a parish before returning to studies, earning a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Tubingen.

While a doctoral student, Cardinal Kasper was research assistant to then-Father Leo Scheffczyk, a noted theologian with traditional leanings, and to Father Hans Kung, who later had his license to teach as a Catholic theologian withdrawn by the Vatican because of his views on issues such as birth control and papal infallibility.

Cardinal Scheffczyk was made a cardinal in 2001 alongside his former pupil.

Cardinal Kasper taught dogmatic theology for six years at the University of Munster, then returned to Tubingen to teach the same subject for nearly 20 years. He also taught at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, as a visiting professor, 1983-84.

He has received honorary doctorates from The Catholic University of America and St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore and has published hundreds of scholarly and theological books, articles and reviews. He also served as a member of the International Theological Commission.

His academic career ended in 1989 when he was named bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany's fourth-largest diocese, with more than 2 million Catholics.

During his 10 years as residential bishop, Cardinal Kasper served the German bishops' conference as vice chairman of the doctrinal commission and as chairman of the international church policy commission.

He was Catholic co-chairman of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity, a dialogue group sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican, when it drafted a milestone accord in 1998 on the long-disputed doctrine of justification.

He is a member of the congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Eastern Churches.

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