Archives > The Mood in the Vatican, April 14, 2005
The Mood in the Vatican, April 14, 2005
- by Robert Moynihan, Editor, Inside the Vatican
VATICAN CITY, Thursday, April 14, 2005
St. Peter's Square was a still pond today.
When a sailboat is becalmed on a quiet bay, the sails no longer
flap, the rigging no longer whines, and a pleasing silence
descends. One can rest and wait, knowing the wind will pick
up again soon, straining the sails, making the ropes sing,
slicing the boat's prow through the black water.
Today was like that in Rome. Yesterday was, too, and tomorrow
seems likely to be as well.
It is a sunny day in Rome, and peaceful. It feels like the
bark of Peter is becalmed, and there is no hurry, yet, to
conjure up the wind to move us forward again.
We are, as it were, between two "storms," between
the Wojtylan past and the as yet unrevealed future.
It is a time without definition. And it is a peaceful feeling,
though one just begins to sense a desire to set out, once
again, in a forward direction. That feeling will take another
few days to mature, as the nine days of mourning for Pope
John Paul II come to an end, and the papal conclave to elect
his successor begins on Monday afternoon at 4:30 on April
Each day this week, at 10 in the morning, the cardinals --
including those who are over 80 and so will not be voting
come Monday -- have gathered in the Paul VI audience hall
to discuss the situation of the Church and to get to know
each other better, in view of choosing John Paul II's successor.
And each day, the press prints new scenarios about what the
cardinals are saying and who they may be thinking of voting
La Repubblica, the leading Rome daily, yesterday morning
set everyone chattering with a piece by Marco Politi saying
this: that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the present "front-runner"
with some 40 cardinals ready to vote for him, perhaps even
50, due to the support of Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Rome,
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, and three cardinals from
the Roman Curia, Cardinals Julian Herranz of Spain, and Alfonso
Lopez-Trujillo and Dario Castrillon-Hoyos of Colombia.
Politi claimed that Ratzinger had made it known that he did
not want to endure a long series of failed votes, which would
suggest that a large number of cardinals did not really want
to elect him, so he had indicated he would withdraw his candidacy
if he did not reach a two-thirds majority on the first few
Politi said Ruini and Scola had joined the "Ratzinger
group" in order to block the election of Dionigi Tettamanzi,
the diminutive cardinal archbishop of Milan.
La Stampa of Turin yesterday reported that another strong
Italian candidate besides Tettamanzi was Ennio Antonelli of
Politi reported that Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano
had spoken to the 137 cardinals for a full three hours about
the world political and diplomatic situation, but had never
once mentioned the Holy See's opposition, ordered by Pope
John Paul, to the US attack on Iraq in 2003.
In a second article, also yesterday, Politi argued that Sodano
was a strong candidate, an alternative to Ratzinger.
He concluded his piece by arguing that Cardinal Walter Kasper
was "silently" emerging as a possible candidate,
partly because of the good work he has done in building bridges
toward the East, and toward the Russian Orthodox in particular.
The College of Cardinals decided already last Saturday, April
9, to halt interviews with the news media as they begin preparations
for their conclave to elect a new Pope.
The cardinals consider it an "act of responsibility"
as they begin a period of "intense preparation"
for the choosing of a new pontiff beginning April 18, Vatican
spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
The spokesman presented it as a "request" by the
cardinals to the news media that they not ask for interviews
and said it was approved unanimously by the 130 cardinals
Italian news media have reported that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
the dean of the College of Cardinals who has been mentioned
as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, had argued for
But this is not true. As John Allen of the National Catholic
Reporter reported yesterday, based on background conversations
with three cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had "taken
a bum rap in the Italian papers" related to the media
"It was not Ratzinger who imposed the policy, they said,
and in fact he resisted calls for a formal ban, saying during
the General Congregation meeting that freedom of speech is
a human right," Allen wrote.
Inside The Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579) is a Catholic news magazine, published monthly except July
and September, with occasional special supplements.