March 2, 2013, Saturday — The Next and the Last

(An image of Pope Benedict leaving his chair after a recent papal audience)

Since Pope Benedict left the papacy on Thursday evening at 8 p.m., the Catholic Church is in a period in which the chair of Peter is vacant (“sede vacante”).

Cardinals will begin to meet in the Vatican on Monday morning, March 4, in less than 48 hours. A pool of five journalists will be able to attend the meetings, and to report on what occurs there.


Meanwhile, there is a lot of chatting going on in the press about what will happen, what could happen, what should happen.

Lists of “papabili” (the Italian word means simply “Pope-able,” that is, men who are considered qualified to become Pope, or likely to be considered by the other cardinals for election to the papacy) are being prepared and published.

In Italy, there is considerable support for the idea that the new Pope should be an Italian, after two foreign Popes, John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-2013). In their theological outlook, the 28 Italian cardinals range from quite progressive to quite traditional. There is not yet one candidate among them who seems to have garnered a consensus.

If there is no consenus about who the leading Italian candidate is, or should be, there is even less consensus about who a possible non-Italian cardinal who could succeed Joseph Ratzinger might be.

Four cardinals being “mentioned” often are pictured in the following photo:

The four men are Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola.

But if one goes to the influential La Stampa/Vatican Insider website, one finds a list of 21 cardinals with large photos and brief summaries about each man. Here is the link:

(Note: The money behind La Stampa of Turin, Italy, comes from estate of the late Gianni Agnelli, the chief owner of the FIAT automobile company, one of the most influential men in Italy in the last century.)

Here is the list of “papabili” from La Stampa. Note that all four of the names on the list above are also on the list below. Note also the first cardinal mentioned, from Brazil, Odilo Scherer. Many in Rome right now are “mentioning” him, and he may very well be the “front-runner” right now, at least in the “conventional” wisdom. Again, you can see photos of all these men at the link just given.

1. Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil;

2. Marc Ouellet, 67, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican; formerly archbishop of Quebec, Canada;

3. Angelo Scola, 72, archbishop of Milan, Italy;

4. Luis Antonio Tagle, 56, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines;

5. Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture and formerly Prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan;

6. Angelo Bagnasco, 70, archbishop of Genoa, Italy;

7. Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 56, head of the Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican, formerly archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana;

8. Peter Erdo, 61, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary;

9. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 77, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina;

10. Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M.Cap., archbishop Of Boston, Massachusetts, USA;

11. Timothy Dolan, 63, archbishop of New York, New York, USA;

12. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 74, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo;

13. Donald William Wuerl, 73, archbishop of Washington, D.C., USA;

14. Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 70, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras;

15. Joao Braz de Aviz, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious and the Institutes of Consecrated Life in the Vatican, from Brazil;

16. Francisco Robles Ortega, 63, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico;

17. Tarcisio Bertone, 78, Secretary of State in the Vatican, formerly archbishop of Genoa, Italy;

18. Kurt Koch, 62, head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity, formerly archbishop of Basel, Switzerland;

19. Christoph Schoenborn, 68, archbishop of Vienna, Austria;

20. Leonardo Sandri, 70, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, born in Argentina;

21. Robert Sarah, 70, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” formerly archbishop of Conakry, Guinea.

Now, clearly, if all these candidates receive votes, the Conclave will be split into 21 small groups. Moreover, there are likely to be other candidates not on this list. The result would be dozens of candidates, each with one, two, or a handful of votes.

Running the numbers, if each of these 21 candidates were to receive an equal number of votes from the expected 115 electors, they would each receive either five or six votes. If there were even more candidates, then each would average about four votes, or fewer.

So the real issue becomes: what will “coagulate” four or five votes into 10, then 10 into 20, 20 into 40, and 40 into the needed 77? (Two-thirds of 115 is 77, making 77 the “magic number” to clinch an election.)

One great vehicle of “coagulation” is to make some sort of an “agreement” about the office of Secretary of State, the “Number 2” position in the Roman Curia after the Pope himself.

And many journalists are proposing scenarios in which a foreign candidate agrees to keep an Italian as the Secretary of State, and by making this agreement, gains the additional support of a number of votes.

Looking at the Conclave from the opposite perspective, if 77 votes are needed to elect a Pope, only 39 votes are needed to block the election of any candidate.

The Italians, with 28 votes, together with another 11 cardinals, could theoretically block the election of any candidate not to their liking.

These 28 Italian voters — the largest block of votes from a single country — may try to find some way to stay united. If they break up into seven groups of four votes each, they lose their possible influence over the outcome.

So the strategy of the Italians, presumably, will be to try to agree, in these coming days, on one candidate from the very outset, from the very first vote, in order to immediately project one candidate, with 20 or 22 or 24 votes, into a very powerful position, distancing him from all the others, who will only have four or five or six votes each.

But who will that candidate be?

No one knows.

Still, a lot of people are speculating.

The Rome-based La Repubblica today said the “new hypothesis” is of a Pope older than age 80, a strong man who will “clean up” the Roman Curia but who will not have a long pontificate. “To change the Curia, a veteran is needed,” the headline says. The paper ran the photos of five cardinals over age 80:

—Camillo Ruini, 82, formerly the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome;

—Angelo Sodano, 86, presently the Dean of the College of Cardinals and formerly the Secretary of State;

—Jose Saraiva Martins, 81, emeritus Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, from Portugal;

—Jozef Tomko, 89, emeritus Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, from Slovakia; and

—Julian Herranz, 83, of Spain, the head of the special commission appointed by Pope Benedict to investigate the “Vatileaks” scandal, and formerly the head of the Vatican office for interpreting Church legal texts. He is also a member of the Prelature of Opus Dei. (Herranz was also mentioned as a possible candidate a few days ago in La Repubblica by Concita De Gregorio in the third of her series of articles on the Pope’s decision to resign.)

Here is a picture of the page in today’s La Repubblica, with the five cardinals and their photos at the top:

Clearly, if the cardinals start looking at candidate among the cardinals over age 80, like these five, the possible pool of candidates nearly doubles, making it more difficult still to predict who might emerge as the new Pope.

Salvatore Izzo of AGI yesterday wrote that the fact that a Pope, following Benedict’s example, may possibly resign after just a few years in office is now a factor in the thinking of many cardinals.

This is leading some cardinals to wonder, he writes, whether it may not be possible “to elect a Pope experienced in the ways of the Roman Curia, who might leave office after having realized the reform of the Vatican offices (in the direction of greater efficiency but also of greater morality).” A reform, he adds, “which Pope Benedict, on the evening of February 13, confided in private that he considered urgent, so much so that he called it his ‘principal regret’ that he did not complete the task before the end of his pontificate.”

And Izzo then writes that both Sariava Martins and Herranz would be cardinals who might fit this profile, but also Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, 75, a canonist who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Legistlative Texts, who was the auxiliary bishop of the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in Milan.

Then Izzo adds an interesting hypothesis: that some cardinals think that the whole idea of choosing an “older-than-80 cardinal” is a type of “Trojan horse” to prepare the way for the cardinals to consider the quite old, but still powerful, present Dean of the College, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 86, who will not be among the voters, because over age 80, but, Izzo says, has very close allies in the Conclave, under age 80: Cardinals Sandri, Giovanni Lajolo, and Paolo Romeo. (“Qualcuno ritiene pero’ che queste candidature — oggettivamente deboli in quanto immaginate per un Pontificato breve — benche’ invocate da alcuni cardinali in perfetta buona fede possano rappresentare una sorta di “cavallo di Troia”, per un recupero in Conclave della figura forte e ingombrante dell’attuale decano Angelo Sodano, che restera’ fuori per eta’ ma puo’ contare nella Sistina su alcuni fedelissimi come i cardinali Sandri, Lajolo e Romeo.)

Then Izzo adds that the idea of a Pope resigning is also having a very different effect: it is increasing the chances of several younger cardinals, who once might have appeared “too young” because they would have remained Pope for 25 or 30 years, but now may be considered “just right” because they may become Pope at about age 60, then resign after 15 years, at age 75.

One of those Izzo names in this category is Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, Hungary, 61. (Erdo, a brilliant canon lawyer and legal historian, has a photographic memory, and is, among all the cardinals, one of the very few who speaks fluent Russian; his Italian is also fluent, as is his German, French, Spanish, and English; he grew up during the communist time in Hungary, and was required by law to do service in the Hungarian military as a conscript.) (“Ma il fattore dimissioni favorisce al contempo anche candidati giovani come l’ungherese di 61 anni Peter Erdo, presidente dei vescovi europei e quindi oggettivamente in pol position.”)

Izzo also names the Dutch archbishop of Utrecht, Villem Jacobus Eijk, 59, who is rebuilding a Church nearly destroyed by secularization, and the Philippine, Luis Antonio Tagle, 55, a Church historian (student of the School of Bologna) and a possible bridge toward…China (Tagle’s mother was born in China).

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has told journalists what his plans are as he prepares for the Conclave: “First, gather information on the candidates; second, ask for information from those who know them; third, ask myself what is best for the Church.”

Meanwhile, an observation: Pope Benedict took his decision to step down from the Petrine office after weeks of prayer; in the end, as he said publicly, he felt the Lord was calling him to this decision.

Nevertheless, many, particularly tradition-minded Catholics, feel, and are saying and writing, that Benedict was mistaken, that his hearing of the Lord’s call was, or must have been, in some way wrong, or imperfect, or distorted.

But if Benedict’s hearing was true, and if his act was one of fidelity and courage, then the logical inference is that whatever happens now will be better than what would have happened had the Pope not taken this decision.

And that thought may give Catholics a certain sense of serenity in the midst of the events that are about to occur.


The Pope’s last flight

I thought it might be appropriate for readers to view the last images of the pontificate of Benedict XVI without any commentary, just a few words from the Pope himself.

Here is a link to those images, as presented by RAI, the Italian national television station:

There is also a very moving report on the Pope’s departure from the Apostolic Palace which shows Archbishop Georg Gaenswein in tears. I do not draw attention to this video out of any desire to intrude on the privacy of the archbishop, but to show how deeply moving the moment was, and to express our sympathy with him. It is a glimpse into the human feelings that many experienced in these last few days:



Influencing the Cardinals?

And now, a dose of needed scepticism about all journalists and their predictions about papal elections.

The Rorate Coeli website today publsihed an editorial, blasting Vatican journalists for their attempts to influence papal conclaves. I found the text intereating, and publish it here below. (Link:

(Prefatory note: the American journalist John Allen is a capable, hard-working journalist whose impressive body of work demands respect. “Even Homer nods,” it is said, and Allen evidently “nodded” when he, famously, did not place Ratzinger on his list of “papabili” in 2005. The editorial below criticizes Allen for this reason, but “Allen” in this article could stand for all journalists — myself included — who, in writing about important stories may overlook things that seem evident, or allow personal beliefs, emotions, preferences — even the wishes of our employers — to affect how we cover a story.)

“Religious correspondents,” “Vaticanists”: they really don’t know much more about the Conclave than the rest of us

(What follows is the text of the editorial published today on the Rorate Coeli web site, linked above)

The 2005 Conclave is not exactly ancient history. In 2013, though, it has become a kind of non-debatable fact that Cardinal Ratzinger was obviously and the whole time the absolute favorite in the 2005 Conclave. Alas, maybe he always was among the electors, and we will never know how much his position in some outstanding events leading up to the Conclave (as writer of the 2005 Colosseum Via Crucis reflections, as Dean of the College of Cardinals and consequently main celebrant of the Funeral Mass of John Paul II and of the Missa pro eligendo Romano Pontifice immediately before the Conclave) led to a last-minute movement in his favor.

What we can say for sure was that the media, the same media filled with strange “papabile” suggestions today, and especially the Italian media, had no space whatsoever for Ratzinger as a credible papabile up to the day of the conclave. No wonder most of us, influenced by media reports, were (gladly) shocked when the Cardinal Protodeacon announced his name on April 19, 2005. It is true that, in hindsight, and considering the events above, historians can say, “there could have been no other outcome.” That was not exactly how things were reported at the time. We will not let their mistakes (true or made on purpose) be forgotten.

Who did extreme-“progressive” Rome correspondent for radical weekly NCR John Allen Jr. mention as the top papabili as soon as news of John Paul II’s death appeared? Remember: this was not a rookie taken by surprise; the state of Pope Wojtyla’s health had been no surprise for several months, so newsmakers such as Allen, who lived full-time in Rome at the time, had their lists ready. He included the following as his papabili:

Ennio Antonelli, 68, Italy; Francis Arinze, 72, Nigeria; Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 68, Argentina; Dario Castrillón Hoyos, 75, Colombia; Godfried Danneels, 71, Belgium; Julius Darmaatmadja, 70, Indonesia; Ivan Dias, 69, India; Claudio Hummes, 70, Brazil; Lubomyr Husar, 72, Ukraine; Walter Kasper, 72, Germany; Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, 68, Dominican Republic; Wilfrid Fox Napier, 64, South Africa; Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, 68, Cuba; Marc Ouellet, 60, Canada; Giovanni Battista Re, 71, Italy; Norberto Rivera Carrera, 62, Mexico; Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 62, Honduras; Christoph Schönborn, 60, Austria; Angelo Scola, 63, Italy; Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, Italy.

This was the “official” NCR list in the 2005 Conclave, posted soon after the death of Pope John Paul II: do you see one name missing there?… As we have often made clear here, Allen and “journalists” like him do not intend to report; their intention is always to try to influence events. Always. It is not for nothing Allen has remained faithful to NCR this whole time.

We can move a step higher in credibility and read another contemporary article by Sandro Magister. The 2005 Conclave was widely reported as an open conclave, and Magister also included a long list of plausible Popes; he did include Ratzinger, but hesitatingly: “the indication of Ratzinger as the next Pope is perhaps more symbolic than real.”

What is amazing is to see fellow Catholics falling once again before the same media hype about certain papabili in this 2013 conclave.

Could the “Vaticanists” be right? Of course they could, especially when dozens of names are mentioned each time, but what one must remember is that the secular media and the “progressive Catholic” media (the same secular and progressive media that crucified dear Pope Ratzinger again and again during his entire pontificate and that now that he is gone pretend to “admire” him) are not to be trusted. Trust in prayers and penance only: auxilium nostrum in nomine Domini. [“Our help is in the name of the Lord.”]

(end Rorate Coeli editorial)


Allen and Cardinal George

Shortly after Rorate posted the above piece, with its critique of John Allen, John Allen himself posted an interesting interview he did this afternoon with Cardinal Francis George, 76, of Chicago, who has just arrived in Rome — showing once again how effective as a journalist Allen is.

“One could make a strong case that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago (photo) is the closest thing the United States has to an ‘American Ratzinger,’ meaning the leading intellectual light among the current crop of prelates,” Allen begins. “Also like Benedict XVI, George is contemplating retirement, having turned 76 and already submitted his letter of resignation.”

Allen adds: “One point that will be music to the ears of vaticanisti everywhere, meaning journalists specialized on the Vatican beat, is that George says the names of candidates currently showing up in the papers largely track with those figures the cardinals themselves are taking seriously. (In 2005, he said, that wasn’t always the case.)” [emphasis added]

Does that mean that the list of names given above contains the name of the next Pope?

Well, we will simply have to wait for a few days to see…

Allen continued: “George said the new Pope will have to lead a serious reform of the Roman Curia, streamlining its procedures so that people’s lives are not put on hold indefinitely, and restoring a sense of trust compromised by the Vatileaks affair.” [emphasis added]

Allen said that other highlights from the interview include:

—George acknowledged that the private pre-conclave discussions among cardinals sometimes can turn “very critical,” with a typical response to a candidate’s name being, “Yes, but …”
—George said that there are people “who think [papal] resignation under any circumstances is not a good idea,” and that Benedict’s decision has left the Church “weakened.” He stressed he doesn’t share that view.
—Right now George said he’s in the process of trying to “winnow down” the field of candidates to 12 or 10 names, and that the process of trying to broker consensus among the cardinals around a particular candidate hasn’t yet started.
George said he hasn’t heard anybody talk about electing a Pope from outside the College of Cardinals, or from among the cardinals who are already over 80.
—George cited global vision, commitment to the New Evangelization, and a capacity to govern as the most important qualities in the next Pope. He said factors such as age and nationality are “secondary.” It’s also important, George said, that the next Pope be close to the poor.

Here is a link to the entire interview:


The Announcement of a New Pope

On the afternoon of the first day of voting — now expected sometime between March 11 and March 15, but the date is not at all sure — one ballot may be held.

If a ballot takes place on the afternoon of the first day and no-one is elected, or no ballot had taken place, four ballots are held on each successive day: two in each morning, and two in each afternoon.

Once a Pope is elected, and accepts his election, the senior Cardinal Deacon (the Cardinal Protodeacon, currently Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran) appears at the main balcony of the basilica’s façade to proclaim the new Pope with the Latin phrase (assuming the new Pope was a cardinal):

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam!
Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum [forename],
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem [surname],
qui sibi nomen imposuit [papal name].

(“I announce to you a great joy:
We have a Pope!
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lord,
Lord [forename],
Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [surname],
who takes to himself the name [papal name].”)

However, it is still possible — despite what Pope Benedict said to the cardinals the other day about the next Pope being “among the cardinals” — that the man chosen will not be a cardinal, and so not on the lists of “papabili” currently being prepared…

(to be continued)

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