Italian Cardinal Scola Once Again Emerging as Papal Favorite


I don’t think Cardinal Scola would make the best pope but I believe he has the best chance of winning, especially in the early voting. My profile of him for


An Italian cardinal close to Benedict XVI is emerging as the front-runner in early voting to elect a new Pope, Vatican observers say.

After a week of deliberations, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, is coming to the fore and could win the support of as many as 40 out of the 77 needed to be elected Pope in the first round of voting in the conclave, which begins Tuesday.

For a number of years, Scola has been the bookies’ favorite, but in recent months other cardinals have usurped his pole position on lists of “papabili,” or leading contenders for the papacy. Now he appears to be making a late resurgence, backed by American cardinals and a wide number of Europeans.

So who is he, and what really are his chances? A man of humble roots – his father was a truck driver, his mother a homemaker – Angelo Scola was born in Malgrate, a village close to Milan, in 1941 and grew up in a small apartment on a farm on the edge of some woods. He has been a priest for more than 42 years, holds doctorates in theology and philosophy, and was actively involved in “Communion and Liberation” – a lay movement aimed at evangelization.

After teaching in various academic institutions, he was consecrated a bishop in 1991, then served as rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, and headed the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in 1995.

But most crucially, Scola went on to lead two major Sees in Italy, often seen as stepping stones to the papacy. In 2002, John Paul II appointed him Patriarch of Venice, where he also served as head of the bishops in the region. Nine years later, Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Milan – Italy’s largest and arguably most prestigious archdiocese.

Benedict respects and admires Scola and the two have been close friends for many years: Both are of the same mind in terms of theology, and come out of the “Communio” theological school co-founded by Joseph Ratzinger soon after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Both admire the 20th century theologians Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar – proponents of Church reform but in continuity with tradition.

Scola’s influence in the previous pontificate was already felt: It was he, insiders say, who gave Benedict XVI the idea to create a new Vatican department geared toward the “New Evangelization” – an effort to re-evangelize once-Christian but increasingly secular Western societies. Moreover, Benedict has closely confided in Scola: The last conversation he had as Pope was reputedly a lengthy telephone call with the Italian cardinal shortly before he left the Vatican on Feb. 28.

On appointing him Archbishop of Milan, Benedict XVI soon after bestowed the pallium (an important vestment symbolizing the jurisdiction given to a bishop by the Holy See) on him at a separate private ceremony – a move some read as the “anointing of a successor.”

In 2005, the German pontiff had already shown his esteem for Scola by appointing him the head of synod on the Eucharist; such an appointment is often taken to mean that the Pope sees a particular cardinal as going places and, invariably, as a potential successor.

But will the other cardinals look upon him in a similar fashion? The Italian cardinal’s closeness to the Communion and Liberation (CL) movement may work against him. The group, which has a popular following in Italy and is well regarded for its educational outreach, has also been tarnished by associations with corrupt Italian politicians.

But Scola has sought to distance himself from the movement and was applauded for not bringing in friends from it to serve in Milan’s curia, instead filling positions also with members of Catholic Action, another Church movement — but one which has had public disputes with CL.

Indeed, the way he has handled management of the diocesan curia is proof he can govern, his supporters say – a key skill cardinals are said to be looking for in the next Pope. Also, being an Italian but outside the Roman Curia, Scola is believed to be in an ideal position to reform it of malpractice and corruption. However, apart from his Oasis initiative, many say his record in Venice was nondescript.

Scola has long been concerned with the nature and mission of the Church in the world. His world view comes across as more positive and optimistic than those of his predecessor: He is skeptical of descriptions of a “Church in crisis,” and he doesn’t like the expression “the crisis of the family.”

Rather, he believes there still is a big zest for family life and “we are just living through the period of big choices.” The problem, according to Scola, is not that today’s men and women don’t consider families important, but they don’t know how to preserve them.

Scola’s ability to remain in the top ranks of leading papal candidates is a testament to his suitability. But although he has the common touch and is generally good with the media, he is not the best communicator (his addresses can be long-winded and overly intellectual), his English is faltering, and at 71, he may be considered too old. It’s also said an insufficient number of Italian cardinals – the largest national block – are likely to rally around him.

If an alternative candidate emerges, offering a more dynamic possibility to that of continuity with the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, support for Scola is likely to fall.

At the moment, however, the Italian cardinal still leads the pack.

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Papal Conclave 101: The Mechanics of Electing a New Pope


VATICAN CITY — By the time all 115 grand electors travel the short distance from their Vatican City residence to the Apostolic Palace at 3:45pm on Tuesday, many will have clear favorite candidates in mind.

Their discernment process over the past few weeks appears to have been conclusive: The cardinals’ “unanimous” decision last Friday to begin the conclave March 12 suggests quite a few minds are made up. The consensus, therefore, is that this conclave could be relatively brief and may well be over by Friday.

There’s “no reason to believe it will take long,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Saturday. The average length of a conclave over the past century has been three days.
Shortly before 4:30pm in the Pauline Chapel, a magnificent 16th-century place of worship containing the last two paintings of Michelangelo, the cardinals will participate in a short ceremony, over which the senior cardinal in the hierarchy — Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re — will preside. After proclaiming the words, “May the Lord, who guides our hearts in the love and patience of Christ, be with you all,” Cardinal Re will invite his confreres to process towards the Sistine Chapel.

As he does so, he prays words that include: “May the Lord direct our steps along the path of truth, so that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, we may always do that which is pleasing to him.”

During the procession into the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will sing the Litany of the Saints, followed by Veni Creator Spiritus, the Latin hymn invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A few names in the litany have been introduced but are not customarily recited. These include the patriarchs and prophets Abraham, Moses and Elijah, St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia, St. Patrick of Ireland and some popes, including St. Pius X.

As they enter the site of the conclave — swept of bugging devices and complete with specially furnished chairs, tables and an elevated floor — the magnitude and weight of their responsibility will be all too real as Michelangelo’s Last Judgment towers above them.

With the electors having taken their places, Cardinal Re will administer an oath to them by reading aloud a Latin text that promises to “observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions” contained in Universi Dominici Gregis, the apostolic constitution on the papal elections.
The cardinal electors, Cardinal Re will say, must “promise, pledge and swear” that whoever is elected “will commit himself faithfully to carrying out” the Petrine ministry and “not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and liberty of the Holy See.” The oath also reminds them to observe rules governing secrecy and to “never lend support or favor” to any outside interference or intervention.

Total Confidentiality

Total confidentiality regarding what transpires during the election, and any violation of that confidentiality, is taken extremely seriously. During the course of the conclave, the camerlengo, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and three assistants act as vigilanti.

They are also assisted by trustworthy technicians who will have ensured that all of the off-limits area is free of surreptitiously installed devices, concealed with the intent of recording or transmitting what takes place. Intentional use of such instruments “is absolutely forbidden,” as is any communication or conversation with persons outside. The cardinals are also not allowed to receive messages, newspapers or publications of any kind, nor follow news bulletins via audio or video transmissions.

In his recent motu proprio Norma Nonnullas, Benedict XVI introduced the penalty of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See for anyone violating this norm of confidentiality.

After Cardinal Re has administered the oath, the electors will then individually swear upon it. While placing their hands on the page of sacred Scripture, they will each say: “And I, X Cardinal X, do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand.”

When the last of the electors has sworn this oath, the master of papal liturgical celebrations, Msgr. Guido Marini, gives the order extra omnes, ordering all those not taking a direct part in the election to leave the Sistine Chapel immediately.

At this juncture, one of two commissioned conclave preachers, Cardinal Prospero Grech, will share a meditation, directing the minds of the grand electors to the grave task before them, on the need to act with right intention for the good of the universal Church — solum Deum prae oculis habentes (having only God before their eyes).

The 87-year-old Maltese cardinal and Msgr. Marini will then leave the Sistine Chapel, and the cardinal electors are now completely alone with God.

Cardinal Re will then ask those present whether the election may begin or if there are still points requiring clarification. If the majority agrees that there is nothing to prevent the process from beginning, it starts immediately.

Voting Commences

The papal election consists of four “scrutinies” (votes) a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, except on Tuesday, when there will be only one vote. But the first scrutiny has three phases to get the ball rolling. The first phase — called the pre-scrutiny phase — comprises the preparation and distribution of the ballot papers by the masters of ceremonies, who will have been readmitted into the chapel. At least two or three ballot papers are given to each cardinal elector.
During the second phase, the junior cardinal deacon will draw by lot three cardinal electors to be scrutineers, another three to be infirmarii to collect the votes of any sick electors and three more to be revisers, double-checking the vote counts. The final phase is the actual voting: Anyone who is not an elector must again leave the chapel, and the compilation of the ballot papers begins.
Voting is done in secret, each elector writing legibly the name of the person of his choice, if possible in handwriting not easily identifiable as his, in a manner that the completed paper can be folded lengthwise. Up until the conclave of 1958, cardinal electors could sign their names on the papers; now it is totally anonymous.

Each cardinal elector, holding his completed and folded ballot aloft between thumb and forefinger, and in view of all the others, then processes with it to the large chalice-like urn placed in front of the scrutineers. There he stops and declares aloud: “I call as my witness Christ the Lord, who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.” After placing his ballot in the urn, he then bows in reverence and returns to his place.

Counting the Ballots

Once all 115 have voted, the scrutineers, seated at a table in front of the altar, add up all the votes that each individual has received. This process, too, is full of ritual.

The first scrutineer takes a ballot, unfolds it and notes the name of the person for whom the vote was cast. He passes it in silence to the second scrutineer, who likewise notes the name written on the ballot before passing it to the third scrutineer, who reads it out in a clear voice, audible to all the cardinal electors present so that they can hear and record the vote. He himself writes down the name he has just read aloud and then inserts a needle through the word Eligo (I elect …) on each ballot, drawing a thread through to be knotted securely at both ends, so that they’re not misplaced.

The sum of votes obtained by different papabili (cardinals believed capable of becoming pope) is calculated and recorded on a separate sheet of paper. This concludes the second phase of the election by scrutiny.

If anyone has obtained two-thirds of the votes cast plus one (in this election, 77 votes), then he has been canonically and validly elected pope. Otherwise, another scrutiny is held. Either way, “revisers” must check the ballots and notes taken by the scrutineers to make sure that the scrutiny has been conducted faithfully.

From Wednesday onwards, if a second ballot needs to take place, it will be held immediately. All ballot papers will be burned at the end of the morning or afternoon session, including any personal notes the electors may have made in the course of the voting. The results of the vote, however, are placed in a sealed envelope and kept in a specially designated archive.

The Vatican stressed last week that if no pope is elected in the first four days of voting that the cardinals will take a pause on the fifth day (Saturday, March 16) in order to “pray, speak freely among themselves and listen to a brief exhortation given by the senior cardinal in the Order of Deacons.”

The voting will then resume with two days of voting and a pause for prayer on the third day, until the 34th vote on the afternoon of the 11th day. In balloting thereafter, only the two names that received the greatest number of votes in the previous scrutiny will be voted upon. Again, one of these two candidates must receive at least two-thirds of the votes (Benedict XVI changed it from a simple majority in 2007) if they are to be elected, and these two candidates cannot vote.

Gauging Support

The first vote is significant, as it will allow the cardinal electors to get the “lay of the land” in a concrete way. As Jimmy Akin explains here, up until now, the electors have a vague idea of support for various candidates; now, they will be able to factor in that real backing in the next ballot.

Some candidates will gain support; others will lose it. And if the leading candidates in the first vote fail to win a two-thirds majority after several ballots, support will be transferred to someone else.
John XXIII once noted how candidates bob up and down during votes “like peas in a pot of boiling water.” A cardinal may keep climbing up until he is near the two-thirds majority, but then fade, as people conclude he hasn’t the numbers and switch to someone else. He may then later re-emerge when other candidates similarly lose favor.

Italian Vatican observers are predicting that Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, is likely to do well in the first ballot, possibly acquiring between 30 and 40 votes.
But American cardinals Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer are also expected to poll well in early voting, possibly acquiring anywhere from 12 to 20 or more votes.

Other cardinals to receive a scattering of votes in the first scrutiny could be Cardinals Turkson, Tagle and Erdo, according to some Vaticanists, but this is all mere speculation.
The Holy Spirit will be at work, and he is known for springing surprises.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Cardinals Gather in St. Peter’s to Pray for the Conclave


One by one the cardinals arrived in St. Peter’s basilica for this evening’s prayers for the conclave, braving a gale of strong winds and heavy rain that has been buffeting Rome all day.

A number of them chose to arrive on foot through the main entrance, just like ordinary members of the public, but any attempt to enter unnoticed would be thwarted as their scarlet fascia and zucchetti would attract passers-by and well-wishers.


Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, was one of those who came through the main entrance. Asked if he would comment on the conclave, he very graciously said he would have to decline as he and all his confreres have now been sworn to secrecy.

By 5pm, all the cardinals were seated – a dramatic image of a sea of scarlet in front of the cordoned-off Altar of the Cathedra in the apse of the basilica. Very symbolically, Bernini’s Baroque stained-glass window, with its central dove and rays of sun denoting the Holy Spirit, towered above them.

Around 500 faithful including a significant number of religious were allowed to join the cardinals in prayer, and stretched back to the baldacchino.

The celebration began with the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary in Italian and Latin, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After 15 minutes or so of adoration, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica, presided over a simple recitation of Vespers  in Latin. The rite concluded with Eucharistic Benediction.

No words were spoken; this was simply a chance for the cardinals and faithful present to recollect and pray for the upcoming conclave. And many found the ceremony deeply moving – an opportunity to join in prayer with the cardinal electors and the many faithful around the world during this momentous time for the Church. It also didn’t escape those present that the next Successor of Peter will most likely have been among those also praying for the best outcome of this conclave this evening, at the apse of the basilica, just a few yards away from St. Peter’s tomb.


At today’s daily Vatican press briefing, Fr. Federico Lombardi made the following points about the general congregations and interregnum:

no date for the conclave was decided upon during the fourth General Congregation his morning. Fr. Lombardi said it still wasn’t known when an announcement would be made but that the delay was due to a willingness not to rush the proceedings. However, the congregations will now be taking place in the morning and afternoon to “intensify” the discussions.

“The College has a great spirit of preparation that is serious, profound, and unhurried,” Fr. Lombardi said. “Perhaps that is why it still did not seem opportune to take a vote on the date of the Conclave, which a large part of the College could sense as something forced in the dynamic of reflection. It also needs to be kept in mind that some cardinals are still arriving and it would be a sign of respect for them to wait until the College is complete.”

* 153 cardinals were present, including 113 cardinal electors. Two electors were still absent: Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw (he arrived this evening) and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Phạm Minh Mẫn or Thanh-Pho-Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, who arrives tomorrow.

* This morning 18 cardinals addressed the gathering during which the following themes were discussed: the Church in the world, the New Evangelization, the Holy See, its Dicasteries and relations with bishops. A third theme was a profile of expectations for the next pope in view of the good government of the Church. Fr. Lombardi said a clearer picture was “emerging” of the kind of expectations the cardinals have of the next pope.

* There have been 51 speeches since the beginning of the Congregations on Monday, but given the large number of cardinals wishing to address the gathering, a five minute time limit was established but is not strictly enforced.

* A question was raised concerning the cancellation this morning of scheduled press conferences with American cardinals after the general congregations. Fr. Lombardi observed that “the Congregations are not a synod or a congress in which we try to report the most information possible, but a path toward arriving at the decision of electing the Roman Pontiff. In this sense, the tradition of this path is one of reservation in order to safeguard the freedom of reflection on the part of each of the members of the College of Cardinals who has to make such an important decision. It does not surprise me, therefore, that along this path there were, at the beginning, moments of openness and communication and that afterwards, in harmony with the rest of the College, it has been established whether and how to communicate.”

About the same time Fr. Lombardi was making those comments, the U.S. Bishops Conference issued the following statement:

“U.S. cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations. Due to concerns over accounts being reported in the Italian press, which breached confidentiality, the College of Cardinals has agreed not to give interviews.”

(Sister Mary Ann Walsh, media relations director at the USCCB, shares her perspective on the decision here).

The American cardinals were the only ones offering briefings during the general congregations, but even though it gave them a chance to correct some of the misleading reports, they weren’t able to share much information once the congregations had begun.

Indeed some were surprised the briefings were taking place at all, given that each cardinal had sworn, on the first day of the general congregations, to “maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.”

But the willingness to speak as freely as possible with the media did denote one thing: an American Pope would bring much needed media savvy to the See of Peter.

* Fr. Lombardi reported that Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano wished a happy birthday to Cardinal Walter Kasper (who turned 80 yesterday), Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio (who turns 75 today), and Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, C.SS.R., (who turns 77 tomorrow). Cardinal Kasper continues to be a Cardinal elector—he will be the oldest to cast his vote in this Conclave—because the Apostolic Constitution regulating the procedure for electing the pontiff establishes the age limit for cardinals entering the Conclave to be determined from the beginning of the period of the Sede Vacante.

*The Vatican also confirmed that “the Fisherman’s Ring has been scratched over,” that is, rendered unusable – a tradition going back to when the ring was used as papal seal.

Read more:

“A Fat Pope Follows a Thin One”


Edward Pentin reporting from Rome — Fevered speculation is already underway over who could succeed Pope Benedict XVI when he retires on Feb. 28th — and there is no shortage of names being put forward.

Some observers strongly argue the case for an African Pope as the faith is growing most rapidly there; others believe the papacy will return to the Italians who held it for four centuries until Polish Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978.

A further school of thought sees it going to an Asian where the Catholic Church is also rapidly growing, or to a cardinal in South America, a region where Catholicism has long been strong but is facing strong competition from Pentecostal sects.

Whoever is elected will face a unique set of challenges, not the least of which will be leading the Catholic Church with a Pope who is still living. Although Pope Benedict has pledged to spend his time in prayer and contemplation in a monastery within the Vatican, his successor will have to learn to deal with possible authority issues among some Catholics who will remain loyal to Benedict XVI but may have difficulty acknowledging the legitimacy of his successor.

Like Benedict XVI, the new Pope will then have to confront an array of other challenges: the growth of secularism and moral relativism in post-Christian Europe and the United States and their effects; the emergence of radical Islam and an increasingly troubled Arab world; and the social fallout of debt-ridden, troubled economies.

Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue will be added challenges. Within the Church, he will have to take over the mantle of trying to bring unity to Catholics, a task Benedict XVI tried especially hard to achieve, and all the difficulties and obstacles that entails.

Predicting the next Pope is always a highly presumptive and precarious endeavour. But it also sheds some light on how the Church differs from any other earthly institution.

For Catholics, the Church is not a political institution, nor a corporation headed by a white-robed CEO, but a divine body, guided by the Holy Spirit, albeit made up of men and women with human imperfections. And those imperfections are not invisible, as some past papal elections have shown.

Furthermore, Cardinal electors do not generally enter the Sistine Chapel with a checklist of abilities to tick off like a presidential primary because the Pope is not a functionary so much as a figure with a much loftier, deeper and sacramental role. He is therefore chosen more on who he is than what he can do.

Because of that, the overriding aspect cardinal-electors will be looking for is holiness, and after that his personal abilities. He will, above all, be someone of prayer, and a man for whom the transcendent reality is a daily reality.

His essential reference point will not be politics, administration or governance but Jesus Christ, and his relationship with him. The ideal candidate for many cardinals, therefore, will be someone who has Christ-like qualities, someone pastoral, with deep compassion for the poor, suffering and most vulnerable, especially the unborn.

Only after that comes competence: the candidate’s intelligence and his grasp of current issues, to have at least some media abilities, as well as a flair for languages — particularly Italian and English — are all worthy attributes.

Many Roman adages surround a conclave, and most of them are unreliable, but one which may well apply in the next papal election is that “a fat Pope follows a thin Pope.” It means that in choosing a pontiff, the cardinal-electors often — though not always — look for personal qualities that were missing in the previous pontiff. As age has become such an issue in this pontificate, it seems highly likely that a younger candidate will be chosen.

Also, as one of Benedict XVI’s weaknesses has been his inability to reform and streamline the Vatican bureaucracy as many had hoped, cardinals may choose someone — most probably a reform-minded Italian with a good knowledge of the Roman Curia — to make those necessary changes which have eluded so many previous pontiffs.

As for the election itself, theories abound that certain nationalities won’t vote for others: Italians allegedly won’t vote for Africans, Africans won’t vote for Asians, and Asians won’t vote for South Americans.

How much this is true is open to question, but as Michael Walsh wrote in his book “The Conclave”: “The further a Pope’s ethnic origins are from the city of Rome, the more remote he appears from the bishopric of Rome.” That doesn’t rule out electing an African or Asian, but to do so takes a far greater leap of faith than choosing a European, and many still cannot see it happening.

An American Pope is also considered unlikely (though not impossible). Ever since the French Pope Clement V became a tool of the French monarchy (then the world’s most powerful nation), and transferred the entire papacy to Avignon in 1309, the Church has been reluctant to elect a Pope from a ruling superpower. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s part of the Church’s tradition.

In any case, all this speculation is somewhat academic as Catholics believe the choice of the Pope is ultimately not made by human minds, but rather the Holy Spirit.

Some leading papabile:

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

  • Prefect of Congregation for Bishops.
  • Noted for his cheerful, open and humble persona as well as his uncompromising orthodoxy, Canadian Cardinal Ouellet has for some years been regarded as the cardinal to watch for the future.
  • As Archbishop of Quebec, he was a lone voice surrounded by liberal bishops and radical secularism, and has resolutely remained one of the most staunch defenders of the Catholic faith in the Canadian hierarchy.
  • A native French speaker and the author of many books, he is also a proficient linguist. He is 68.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith

  • Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Hugely popular among the more orthodox wing of the Church, Cardinal Ranjith ticks many of the boxes required to be Pope.
  • Known for his personal holiness and administrative abilities, he is also a trained Vatican diplomat who has served in many cities around the world.
  • Strongly loyal to Pope Benedict, he has also spent time in the Roman Curia as number two in the Vatican’s department on liturgy.
  • He is also well respected in his native land. He is 65.

Cardinal Angelo Scola

  • Archbishop of Milan, Italy.
  • Son of a truck driver and once an outsider to take over from John Paul II, Cardinal Scola, 71, has for some years been the bookie’s favorite to succeed Benedict XVI.
  • An eminent scholar, he has striven to find ways to avoid a ‘clash of civilizations’ through building of forum for dialogue and encounter between the West and Islam.
  • An ebullient but warm character he is also a polyglot and a respected intellectual — though sometimes the depth of his intellect can confound even the most erudite of theologians.

Cardinal Robert Sarah

  • President of the Pontifical Charity Cor Unum.
  • A native of Guinea, gently spoken Cardinal Sarah, 67, is both frank and uncompromising when it comes to the Church’s teaching and respected in the Roman Curia.
  • He has been instrumental in overseeing a radical restructuring of the Catholic Church’s international development aid programs which, under Benedict XVI, have become more explicitly Catholic in their identity.

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke

  • Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
  • In the unlikely event of an American being chosen, chances are he would be Cardinal Burke.
  • Humble, orthodox and fiercely uncompromising especially about Catholic politicians practicing their faith coherently, he recently said that Irish Catholic politicians who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion.
  • Cardinal Burke, 64, a native of Richland Center, Wisc. is an expert in Canon Law and a keen proponent of the traditional liturgy.
  • He has also been a close confident of Pope Benedict.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn

  • Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
  • A member of a prominent aristocratic Austrian family that produced two cardinals in the 18th and 19th centuries, Cardinal Schoenborn, 68, has long been considered a serious candidate for Pope, but his star has waned a little in recent years as he has become encumbered with a number of controversies, and his handling of those controversies has been questioned.
  • Nevertheless, he has had extensive experience of defending the Church in the face of radical secularism in Austria.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

  • Archbishop of Genoa, Italy.
  • A firm and loyal friend of Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bagnasco, 70, has emerged as a doughty yet softly spoken and deeply pastoral leader of the Church in Italy, and an ideal candidate to tackle increasing secularism.
  • His meteoric rise is testament to his abilities.
  • He has spoken out strongly in defense of Church teaching, notably against same-sex unions in 2007, a battle the Italian Church eventually won but which led to death threats against him and the presence of armed guards.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga

  • Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • A trained aircraft pilot and saxophonist, Cardinal Maradiaga, 70, is from the more liberal wing of the Church.
  • He has long been one of Latin America’s leading voices in the College of Cardinals, especially on social justice issues.
  • He once called poverty and social injustice the real “weapons of mass destruction” and said globalization is creating a world in which “the greediness of a few is leaving the majority on the margin of history.”
  • He is most popular in Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.
  • He is also good with the media, and speaks eight languages.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

  • President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
  • Now 64, Ghanaian Cardinal Turkson was the youngest cardinal when John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2003.
  • Since then, he has made his mark as a champion of Christian unity, interreligious dialogue and the Church in Africa.
  • A proficient linguist (he speaks six languages), many see him as a logical choice to become an African Pope.
  • But his judgement has been questioned by some since he became president of the Pontifical Council.

Cardinal Péter Erdõ

  • Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary.
  • At only 60, Cardinal Erdõ, the primate of Hungary, is one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals.
  • A canon lawyer, he has a string of awards and positions to his name.
  • He is also the president of Europe’s Catholic bishops, an advisor to a number of Vatican departments and has written hundreds of research papers and articles.
  • His star is rising and is one to watch.


Pope Benedict’s Prayerful Decision to Resign


Waning strength of mind and body led to his decision, which the papal spokesman said reflected ‘great courage.’

By Edward Pentin

VATICAN CITY (12 Feb. 2013) — During the course of his nearly eight-year pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has sometimes been labeled “the Pope of Surprises” on account of his academic brilliance and unpredictability, but few seriously imagined this.

News of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation — which was declared formally in a written statement dated Feb. 10 — filtered through the Italian news agency ANSA at around 10.30 a.m. Rome time Feb. 11 and was initially met with widespread disbelief, even by those closest to him.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed a couple of hours later during a packed and somber press conference that the Pope would indeed be leaving his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter at precisely 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Benedict announced his decision to a Feb. 11 consistory of cardinals to rule on three canonizations.

Father Lombardi said his closest aides were left “incredulous,” but added that Holy Father showed “great courage” and “determination.” Speaking the day after the announcement, he said the Pope was “serene” after taking “a lucid and well formed decision.”

It’s thought that only his very close inner circle — notably his brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and the prefect of the Pontifical Household Archbishop Georg Gänswein — knew of the Pope’s decision to resign before the public announcement. Father Lombardi said it was an “absolutely personal” decision.

Such a resignation is unprecedented in modern times, with the last papal resignation being Pope Gregory XII in 1415. But it is in line with Canon 332 No. 2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that if a Pope is to resign, “it is required for validity that he make the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.”

In his statement, the Pope said that “after having repeatedly examined” his conscience before God, he had come to the “certainty” that his strengths, “due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

He added: “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

But he said in today’s world, “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.” He noted that these had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

“For this reason,” he continued, “and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005.”


No Medical Diagnosis

No specific medical reasons were given: Father Lombardi said he knew of no particular medical complaint, only that he had noticed increasing frailty, although on Feb. 12 he disclosed that the Pope had had a new pacemaker fitted three months ago. He also denied there was any conscious attempt to make the announcement on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is also the Church’s World Day of the Sick.

The news prompted speculation about the reasons for his unexpected decision. However, those close to the Pope argue that his decision is very much in keeping with his character. Reluctant to be Pope — he once remarked that on learning of his election, he felt like a guillotine had come down on his neck — he went on to courageously embrace it. But it was no secret that as cardinal, he harbored dreams of retiring and spending time back in his native Bavaria writing books.

Moreover, as a man known for his humility and well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, he made it clear that he would consider resigning if the time were right. In his 2010 interview for the book Light of the World, Pope Benedict was asked if he would resign in view of the sexual abuse scandal.

“When the danger is great one must not run away,” he said. “For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view.”

But he added, “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”

Asked if he could imagine a situation in which he would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate, he said he could, and that “if a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”

That time appears to have come.


Brotherly Concern

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s older brother, told reporters Feb. 11 that the Holy Father had been advised by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. He added that he had been having difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process.”

“His age is weighing on him,” he said. “At this age, my brother wants more rest.”

But a further sign that the Pope might resign was also apparent back in 2009. Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican was one of the few to draw attention to the significance of Benedict XVI visiting the resting place of Pope Celestine V. A holy Pope chosen reform the Church, Celestine pleaded with cardinals not to choose him, and struggled to rule the powerful cardinals around him. He resigned from the papacy in December 1294, five months after his election.

Elected at a time of great corruption and contention in the Church, after a long conclave, he assumed the See of Peter at the age of 80; Benedict XVI was 78 when elected in 2005.

Some observers therefore see it as unsurprising that Benedict XVI had an affinity with Celestine, and during his 2009 visit, made a significant gesture by leaving his own pallium — a sign of his episcopal authority and his connection to Christ — on the medieval Pope’s tomb.

During his pontificate, Benedict has venerated the relics of Celestine twice — but although such gestures did not go unnoticed at the time, few believed Benedict XVI would himself resign.

But the Holy Father’s retirement is likely to be less fraught than that of Celestine, who was held under house arrest by Pope Boniface VIII as his successor feared his opponents might use Celestine as a rallying point. Boniface also annulled all of Celestine’s official acts.

Father Lombardi said Pope Benedict plans to retire to a former cloistered monastery within the Vatican, but immediately after Feb. 28, he will be based at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. This is to allow renovations to the monastery to be completed, after which the former Pope will continue his theological studies.

The Vatican spokesman, speaking on Feb. 12, said the Pope’s expected encyclical on faith will not be published before the Pope steps down. He added that he did not know how close the document was to completion but when published, it will take a form other than an encyclical.


Tributes Pour In

Tributes to the Pope have been pouring in from around the world, beginning in the Curia.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals who will play a key role in overseeing the coming conclave, expressed his closeness, and that of all the cardinals, to Benedict XVI.

“We have heard you with a sense of loss and almost disbelief,” he said in a statement. “In your words we see the great affection that you have always had for God’s Holy Church, for this Church that you have loved so much.”

He recalled how the Holy Father “did not hesitate” to assume the responsibilities of being Pope when elected in 2005. “Although moved with emotion, to answer that you accepted, trusting in the Lord’s grace and the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Like Mary on that day she gave her ‘Yes’, and your luminous pontificate began, following in the wake of continuity, in that continuity with your 265 predecessors in the Chair of Peter, over 2,000 years of history from the Apostle Peter, the humble Galilean fisherman, to the great popes of the last century from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II.”

“We will still have many occasions to hear your paternal voice,” Cardinal Sodano continued. “Your mission, however, will continue. You have said that you will always be near us with your witness and your prayer. Of course, the stars always continue to shine and so will the star of your pontificate always shine among us. We are near to you, Holy Father, and we ask you to bless us.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, issued a statement saying the Pope “brought a tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with God in all he did.” Acknowledging sadness at the news, Cardinal Dolan said his resignation is “another sign of his great care for the Church.”

“Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict,” Cardinal Dolan said.


Other Voices

Tributes were forthcoming from outside the Catholic Church as well. Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the recently elected leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said it was with “a heavy heart but complete understanding” that Anglicans had learned of the Pope’s decision.

“As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ,” Archbishop Welby said in a message posted on his website. “He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.”

President Barack Obama also released an official statement in response to the Pope’s announcement, remembering his 2009 visit with the pope and acknowledging the role of the Church in the U.S. and world.

Reaction among Romans was largely one of shock — drivers calling over passersby near the Vatican to check it was true, while others wondering if there were more reasons behind the resignation and that maybe he had been pushed out. Almost fittingly, a thunderstorm broke soon after the announcement and torrential rain poured down on Rome for the rest of the day.


The Coming Conclave

Attention has already started turning towards the coming conclave, although proceedings won’t begin until March 1.

Father Lombardi said no one knows the exact date of the papal election, but noted that obviously there will be no need to wait the normal eight days of novendali (mourning) after the death of the Pope.

“Thus, in two weeks, during the month of March, in time for Easter, we will have a new pope,” the papal spokesman said. “Benedict XVI will have no role in next March’s conclave, or in the running of the Church during the time between popes, the time of Sede Vacante (empty chair),” he added. “The Apostolic Constitution gives no role in this transition to a pope who resigns.” As of Feb. 12 it’s also not clear what title Benedict XVI with have once he steps down.

Many speculate that among the leading candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI are Cardinals Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian and president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Robert Sarah, a Guinean and president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

From the United States, Cardinals Timothy Dolan, Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Houston-Galveston have been mentioned; however, in Church history it is considered less likely (though not impossible) for a candidate from a world superpower to be elected Pope.

Whoever is elected will find himself confronting a unique set of circumstances, and have to deal with the challenge of a previous, legitimately elected Pope still living.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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