Apr 042013

by Father Anthony, STL
Sussex, UK

++++ Do a search on ‘Anthony’ for ALL his other posts and comments (—>>).
There are quite a few, including Feb. 16, 2013 on ‘Initial Thoughts on Coming Conclave‘.

The decision of Pope Benedict to resign opened the way for much public soul searching on the part of many Cardinals. Benedict indicated that he felt no longer able to do what needed to be done. This seems to have given the green light to Cardinals from different parts of the world to express frustration with the way things had been going. The various scandals and apparent misjudgements on the part of the Curia contributed to a widespread sense that “business as usual” would not be enough.

Real changes were needed. This concern has little to do with perceived controversial issues as seen by the media. There was a feeling that the work of the Church and the proclamation of the message of the Church was being hampered by a not very competent Roman Curia. There was particular criticism of the Secretariat of State under Cardinal Bertone.

Rightly or wrongly Cardinal Bertone was held responsible for many of the problems of the past few years. The fact that he had not come from the diplomatic service of the Holy See made him an unpopular choice as Secretary of State from the outset. Tensions between Bertone and those with a background in diplomacy were there all through his time in office.

There was also the conviction of many Cardinals who strongly supported Pope Benedict’s efforts for reform, and spiritual and liturgical renewal, that a number of people in the Curia were undermining the Pope and were resisting what he wanted to do.

This created an atmosphere where people felt free to speak out and to demand changes. It was clear that there was no one obvious “front runner“, and a large number of names surfaced, perhaps more than would normally be the case.

The Italian media saw Cardinal Scola of Milan as perhaps the leading candidate, possibly the only serious Italian possibility. Others were Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil.

It seems clear now that the mood was against an Italian. It was also clear from the outset that the Italians would never be able to unite around one candidate, even an Italian. It is ironic that with an even larger block of Italian electors this time they could not influence their brethren in the direction of an Italian Pope. It also seems clear now that there was a strong desire to choose someone from outside Europe.

There were several African Cardinals who might have been chosen. I can immediately think of three. However the strength of the Church in Latin America suggested that the new Pope might well come from there.

Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil would have been a serious contender, but the perception that he was the choice of Cardinal Bertone’s supporters and those of Cardinal Sodano made him “the Curia’s candidate“, and thus in 2013 apparently unelectable. When it emerged in the Italian media that Bertone and Sodano and supporters were now in agreement despite years of open disagreement, it led some to recall the words of the Gospel when “Pilate and Herod became friends“. Whatever may be said about that, it clearly meant that Cardinal Sherer would not be acceptable.

We cannot be sure exactly how things developed once the Cardinals had entered the Conclave, at least not until a few more indiscretions emerge. The notions of “secrecy” clearly differ from one culture to another! It is suggested by the Italian media, to whom at least some Cardinals are happy to talk “off the record“, that it became clear early on that Cardinal Scola did not have the support needed and that the same was true for Scherer and Ouellet, and that one of the “outsiders” would have to emerge.

It is interesting to speculate on why exactly it was Cardinal Bergoglio who came through so quickly, but the fact that he had a solid body of support in 2005 ( if reports are to be believed ) must have been significant. It has been said by a number of Cardinals that his brief intervention at one of the last General Congregations on the Saturday before the Conclave had made an impact on many of them.

The outcome is now well known. The concern for real change was obvious. The new Pope clearly has a”mandate” for reform and especially in the central government of the Church. It is also clear that he is expected to do something substantial to make collegiality a reality, and to involve the Bishops around the world more effectively in the central administration of the Church. The Curia must be at the service of the Pope and the Bishops, and not their masters. This, at least to me, is the key issue.

The election of a 76 year old Pope with a reputation for simplicity of life, but also effective government of a large Archdiocese is a highly significant event. The challenges facing him are enormous. Like Pope John XXIII, he must be an “old man in a hurry“. Much will depend on his ability to choose people who share his vision and who have the capacity to implement real change. There is not too much time. He certainly needs our prayers.

Tony C.

April 3rd 2013

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