Monday, April 18, 2005

Who Will Be the Next Pope? (Part 3)

Well, it’s finally here. The first day 115 cardinals from 52 different countries gather together to form the conclave that will eventually select the next pope? No—well that’s here too, but I had in mind the third part of my series on the papal elections. If you missed them (or forgot what they said) here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In fact, the cardinals are currently moving into the Sistine Chapel as I write this. If you have read the first of this series, then you know that all eyes are fixed on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. What are they looking for? A lot of smoke, that’s what. The cardinals have already taken the “oath of secrecy,” will be identifying the 117 voting cardinals, are then will continue in prayer to discern the next pope. They may take an initial vote at the end of (their) day, or may decide to wait until day two. Once the vote has been taken, they will burn the ballots in the stove (that’s the smoke we’re looking for). If that smoke is white (the ballots having been burned with straw), that indicates that the Roman Catholic denomination has a new pope. If instead the smoke is black, that indicates no candidate received two-thirds vote and the cardinals are at an impasse. Historically, if the black smoke appears, the cardinals will take another vote immediately. If no candidate gets two-thirds vote, then the cardinals will continue this process for three more days, or until two-thirds vote is reached. If no pope is selected during that time, then the cardinals take a day off from voting for discussions, and the voting process commences again.

The real question is, Who will likely be the next pope? In the second part of this series, I broke down the likely candidates but didn’t comment at that time about the frontrunner. Even now, there is no real frontrunner, but I think we can safely eliminate several of the hopefuls from consideration. In that blog entry I initially profiled eight hopefuls. Of those eight we can, I think, safely eliminate some.

Christoph Schonborn, the 60 year-old from Austria, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the 62 year-old from Honduras, and Angelo Scola, the 63 year-old from Italy may all be eliminated from consideration due to their ages. They are too young to follow the long reign of John Paul II. Keep in mind that Roman Catholics are now referring to JPII as “John Paul II the Great.” His reign was exceedingly long, and his legacy will be in mind when the cardinals choose the new pope. They won’t likely choose someone who might eclipse the long reign of JPII. They’ll rather prefer a pope who won’t be around very long.

That leaves five to consider. Of those five, we may eliminate the following:

Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, from Paris is an ethnic Jew. The conclave will likely select a pope who will carry on the legacy of JPII, part of which was to make inroads into Islam. No Jewish pope will succeed at that, and so Lustiger will likely be eliminated from consideration.
Moreover, keep in mind that 50% of the voting cardinals are European. That is a significant consideration since there may be a political motive to choose one of their own. Also, it may mean a priori elimination of all non-European cardinals from consideration, such as Claudio Hummes, 70, from Brazil and Francis Arinze, 72, from Nigeria (although the latter may be included back in the mix for other reasons detailed below). That would leave two (or, perhaps, three) to consider:

Before considering the finalists, I need to comment on the current speculation by some that Cardinal Ratzinger may be selected. I just don’t see that happening. Ratzinger has a reputation as a conservative—much more so than JPII—and I just don’t think that will fare well among the 50% of voting European cardinals, most of whom would no doubt prefer a more liberal candidate. In short, Roman Catholicism has outgrown conservatism, and I don’t see the cardinals making what they would certainly perceive as a “backward” move by selecting someone who might impede the trajectory of liberal reforms initiated at Vatican II.

With that in mind, they may decide on Godfried Danneels, 71, from Belgium. Danneels is surely a favorite of moderates and liberals. However, he may be a bit too liberal at this stage in the trajectory. If he’s not chosen, then Dionigi Tettamanzi, 70, from Italy may be a shoo-in, since not only is he a European but is also seen as someone who would carry on the legacy of JPII.

Having said all this, Francis Arinze, 72, from Nigeria may be selected after all, based solely on his work with Muslims, Hindus, and other major religions. He, too, will be seen as one who would carry on the legacy of JPII.

Hence, given these candidates only, the frontrunner is either Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy or Francis Arinze of Nigeria. Of course, both of these may be bypassed if the conclave decides to go with someone outside the current frontrunners. We may see later today or tomorrow. In either case, if I'm wrong on the selection, you'll read about it first on the RC discussion forums. : )