by Father Anthony, STL
Father Anthony’s initial reflections from attending the November 20, 2010 consistory.
Post consistory PICTURES by Father Anthony.
It is interesting to reflect on the 2005 conclave in that many of the electors will have come to Rome not expecting to chose Cardinal Ratzinger. What happened, I think, was that the experience of taking part in the funeral of John Paul II brought home to them what an extraordinary impact he had made during his nearly 27 years as Pope. The idea of electing a gentle smiling Italian was simply no longer adequate. John Paul had given the Papacy a global dimension and a global presence that made it impossible to elect someone who could not make his presence felt on the global stage. In Cardinal Ratzinger they saw a man of evident spiritual depth, of great erudition and theological learning combined with great courtesy and personal charm. They noticed that he knew them all by name, that he was always ready to listen to them, and that he conducted the affairs of the Sede Vacante with great skill. At the Funeral Mass they also saw his pastoral sensitivity in the manner of his celebration of the Mass.
At the beginning of the conclave there was already a solid block of voters in his favour. It rapidly became clear that his support had grown, and that for the sake of the unity of the Church it would be wise to support his candidature. It was also clear to the cardinals that he was very far removed from the widely spread caricature of “Panzer Cardinal”.
Whenever the next conclave takes place it is unlikely that there will be such a dominant personality in place. There will be a number of men who are well qualified, and, as I see it, no obvious outstanding candidate. Nationality will not, I think, be a major consideration. An Italian could be elected, but only if he were outstanding. I think Cardinal Ravasi might be such a person. Cardinal Scola might be another. Cardinal Amato is mentioned, but I do not think that he would be able to command enough support. Certainly if he were to move the Church on and deal with many of the problems facing the Church at the beginning of this century he would need to be able to “think outside the box” of the Italian culture.
Otherwise I think we are back to a number of men who have combined both Diocesan and Curial experience. Cardinal Scherer of Brazil, Cardinal Ouellet, Cardinal Turkson, are three obvious candidates. I would certainly include Cardinal Schönborn among the papabili. His critical remarks about Cardinal Sodano may well find an echo in many other cardinals who have not felt able to speak out, but who would largely share his views. He is a highly intelligent man, and is very close to Benedict XVI in his general view of the Church. He is, like the Pope, a man of wise judgment and pastoral wisdom.
These are just a few thoughts following my recent visit to Rome. The present Pope looks set to continue an active and very effective ministry for some time to come. The conclave may not happen for some time yet. When it does come it will mark a moment of decision that may not be easy for the Cardinals. The good thing is that we seem to have a good number of men who might be chosen and who might well be well place to move the Church forward.