Soon – maybe before 15 March – the papal master of liturgical celebrations Fr. Guido Marini will say a famous Latin statement ‘Extra omnes’ and will close the door of the Sistine Chapel and a conclave will start during which a successor of Benedict XVI will be elected

The Cardinal Collegium comprises 207 members at present (there were 209 of them, but on 23 February the 93-year-old Belgian cardinal Julien Ries died, and on 28 February - the Francis cardinal Jean Honore), but in the Sistine there will be only 115 cardinals-electors (from 117 entitled). It happens so because under the apostolic constitution ‘Universi Dominici gregis’ from 1996, ‘the right of voting for the Roman Bishop belongs only to the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, excluding those who reached the age of 80 before the day of the pope’s death or the day when the vacancy of the Holy See started’ (the constitution of John Paul II confirmed the age limit for cardinals-electors which had been introduced in 1970 by Paul VI). In a specific case the Holy See of St. Peter was vacated on 28 February from 8 p.m. not because of the death of Benedict XVI, but as a consequence of his abdication. For this reason cardinal Lubomyr Husar will not participate in the conclave, who has his 80th birthday on 26 February, whereas the pope will be elected by three cardinals who will reach the age of 80 in March.

It is interesting to note that also 117 cardinals were entitled to participate in the previous conclave, but 115 of them participated in it because two of them – cardinals Adolfo Suarez Rivera and Jaime Sin – had not arrived in Vatican because of their health condition.

The present composition of the group of cardinals shows the universal character of the Catholic Church because it is represented by cardinals from 49 countries of the world. Certainly, the Italians are the majority, as always– 28. There are going to be 11 cardinals-electors from the United States, 6 cardinals – from Germany, 5 cardinals from Brazil, India and Spain, 4 cardinals from France and Poland, 3 cardinals from Canada and Mexico, 2 cardinals from Argentina, Nigeria and Portugal. And one cardinal-elector from each of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Philippines, Ghana, Guinea, Holland, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Colombia, Cuba, Lebanon, Lithuania, Peru, Republic of Dominica, Senegal, Slovenia, Republic of the Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, Venezuela, Hungary and Vietnam. There are four Polish electors – two of them are conducting a mission in the Roman Curia: cardinal Zenon Grocholewski (prefect of the Congregation for the Catholic Education) and cardinal Stanisław Ryłko (the chairman of the Papal Council for the Laymen), other two are archbishops metropolitans: cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz and cardinal Kazimierz Nycz.

The definite majority of cardinals electing the successor of Benedict XVI - 70 – are cardinals nominated by this Pope during 5 consistories (24 March 2006, 24 November 2007, 20 November 2010, 18 February 2012 and 24 November 2012).The rest 46 of them had been nominated as cardinals by blessed John Paul II during one of his 9 consistories.

59 electors of the next pope are Europeans (they are over 50 per cent of electors);there are much less representatives of other continents: Latin America – 19, Northern America – 14, Africa – 12, Asia – 11, Australia – 1.

19 cardinals-electors come from religious orders and religious groups. There are most Salesians – 4, there are 3 Franciscans, two Dominicans and two Jesuits; there is also one Capuchin, one Redemptorist, Lazarysta, one Oblate of Immaculate Mary, one sulpician, one scalabryn and one father of Schoenstatt, one representative of the Maronite Order of Virgin Mary.

The youngest electors are two representatives of the Asian continent: 54-year-old cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, the head of the Church in India, and 56-year-old Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila. However, the definite majority of cardinals – 73- are at the age from 70 to 80 years.

The conclave which will take place in March, will pass into history, because cardinals will be choosing a new pope somehow ‘in the shadow’ of the ‘previous’ Pope (Benedict XVI who has the title: retired pope after 28 February), staying in Castel Gandolfo. This is an unprecedented thing in the newest history of the Catholic Church. Cardinals will have to consider, first of all, the reasons of the resignation of Benedict XVI from the ministry in the Holy See (the old age resulting in the lack of strength both of the body and the spirit ‘for good fulfilling papal ministry’). It seems that in this way Pope suggests that cardinals should elect an energetic man, full of vitality, so rather young and not a ‘temporary pope’ in an older age( in fact Joseph Ratzinger was considered so, when he was elected for the Holy See at the age of 78) in order to conduct the boat of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel in today’s world, which is subjected to quick changed and is strongly agitated by issues of great significance for the life of faith’. There are 43 cardinals who are participating in the conclave but have not reached the age of 70 yet, and a new pope may be among them, although the criteria of the age is not the most important. Benedict XVI was discreetly blamed for the fact that he was not conducting the Roman Curia sufficiently – Vatican scandals were allegedly to have been a result of it. At this point it is worth explaining that cardinal Ratzinger –as a prefect of the Congregation of the Teaching of Faith – had been one of the most important people of the roman Curia for over 20 years, but despite that, he did not become its ‘official’, he was not interested in mechanisms or curia’s ‘games’, and his ‘reference point’ was John Paul II with whom he had very strong relationships. In his book “Introduction to Christianity’ Joseph Ratzinger wrote in the 60s: ‘People who are real believers do not pay attention to a fight for the renewal of ecclesiastical forms. (…)For the Church is not where somebody is organizing, reforming or ruling, only among those who simply believe and accept the gift of faith which becomes life for them’. Probably these reflections justify the theologian Ratzinger the best, why he as Benedict XVI did not carry out any reform of the Curia. He was more interested in faith of the Church and new evangelization than in organizational or personal changes. Will cardinals gathered at the conclave decide to elect somebody a pope who, like Benedict XVI, does not ‘identify with’ the Curia or will they rather decide that it is time a fundamental reform introduced and they will elect somebody who is characterized by high organizational skills and who knows the mechanisms of Curia well? Time will give an answers to these questions.

Benedict XVI is one of the brightest minds of the Church – it will be difficult to find a man of such high intellect among the cardinals. But sometimes – especially at the beginning of the pontificate he found it difficult to be among crowds of believers – his ‘natural’ environment was rather the university aula and groups of students. Therefore the outgoing pope was considered as hardly charismatic, as a pastor who does not attract people, although the statistics concerning the number of pilgrims participating in the meetings with Benedict XVI deny it, and sometimes people started appreciating him for his great wisdom, and also humility and modesty. Maybe cardinals will state that at the time of the new evangelization, the Church and the world need a new pope of a great charisma who was, undoubtedly, John Paul II and they will be looking for this kind of a candidate…

Certainly, the result of votes in the conclave depends on ‘numbers’, therefore data concerning the composition of cardinals should be analyzed. What strikes at the first sight, is a big number of cardinals from Italy – there are 28 of them, which is 24 per cent of voters. However, it seems that the Italians do not have any candidate. A candidate connected with Benedict XVI is undoubtedly archbishop of Genoa cardinal Angelo Bagnasco; whereas those who want an Italian cardinal from the Curia, prefer cardinal Mauro Piacenza, a prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, although the Cardinals’ Collegium has focused its attention recently also on cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi who proclaimed retreats for the Roman Curia (it is a prominent intellectualist, but has got very little pastoral experience).

Italian cardinals could also support an European candidate; especially that half of electors come from Europe and on our continent we also have prominent people such as: cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop metropolitan Ostrzyhomia – Budapest or cardinal Christiph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, but neither the first nor the latter one are regarded as people of a great charisma.

Not in the least should we remember about candidates from the Catholic continent which is Latin America. During the previous conclave one of the serious ‘competitor’ of cardinal Ratzinger was a cardinal from this continent, the Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. Today cardinal Bergoglio is already 77 years old, therefore 64-year-old cardinal Odilio Pedro Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil is considered as a candidate among the Hispanics, as well as Honduras cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, and the representative of Caritas Internationalis.

Despite the dramatic crisis caused by moral scandals, the Church in the United States is still dynamic and has many new prominent cardinals among whom there are: Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York, Sean Patrick O’Malley, a Capuchin, archbishop of Boston, and Donald William Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. One of them may receive votes of 11 cardinals-electors from the USA. In the group of cardinals electing a pope, Australia is represented only by one cardinal – archbishop of Sydney George Pell. He is a cardinal who is appreciated not only in the English-speaking world, but also in the Curia. Paraphrasing the words of John Paul II, one could say that Pell – if he was elected – would be a pope really from a ‘very far-away country’.

The candidate who would receive support of the electors from both Americas is undoubtedly cardinal Marc Quellet, a prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Cardinal Quellet is a French-speaking Canadian cardinal, a polyglot, who spent some of his priestly life in the Southern America. He is appreciated by Benedict XVI, knows the Roman Curia well and is still relatively young – he is 69 years old.

Cardinals gathered in the conclave will have to make considerations and make conclusions from the phenomenon of the reducing number of the Catholics in the West (Europe and the Northern America) and dynamic development of the Church in Africa and Asia. One cannot omit the fact that during two last pontificates (that is, from 1978) the number of the Catholics in Africa tripled – there are nearly 200 million of them at present. The increasing significance of the Black Land is also proven by two apostolic journeys of Benedict XVI to this continent. Among cardinals coming from Africa, at present we have prominent persons – cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian cardinal has worked in the Curia for many years, who is a retired prefect of the Congregation of the Divine Cult and Discipline of Sacraments and is over 80 years old. At present two African cardinals are presiding over the Papal Councils: cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea is the representative of ‘Cor Unum’, and cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson from Ghana presides over ‘Iustitia et Pax’. Certainly, it does not necessarily results from the fact that the Church has already ‘become mature’ in order to have an African pope, but undoubtedly a new Bishop of Rome will have to be characterised by great sensitivity to the matters of the Church which is in Africa.

I have already mentioned that the present conclave is completely unusual, therefore its result may also be completely unexpected. The resignation of Benedict XVI from the Holy See is somehow a challenge thrown to his closest co-operators, that is, cardinals in the Curia and outside it. The pope repeats that he has done it for the sake of the Church; also in order to accelerate the process of its radical purification which could not be continued because of the weakening strength of the pope. So, it may happen that cardinals-electors will respond to the ‘revolutionary’ gesture of Benedict XVI in the same radical way, by electing somebody from outside the Curia, and also from outside aging and more secularised Europe – and - generally speaking – the West. It would be so, if, for example, a Philippine cardinal Luis A. Tagle would be elected or cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Dona from Sri Lanka. There is an old Italian sayings: ‘Who is coming into a conclave as a pope, comes out from it as a cardinal’, which is proves best how difficult it is to predict who will be elected by cardinals-electors. My reflections on the conclave are only journalistic speculations because I can only rely on a kind of knowledge of the Vatican world and on ‘a journalistic nose’. Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel will rely on the help of the Holy Spirit, and this changes everything because, as blessed John Paul II wrote in the ‘Roman Triptych’ – it is Him who will show’.


"Niedziela" 10/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl