Be wise. Whether you are Roman Catholic, another faith, or have no affiliation at all, you should take notice as the next pope is chosen. The Church is teetering on the Brink, and it cannot stay there. The next pope will either put the Church on a path to regain its prominence in the world… or drive it right over the cliff. This much is obvious to Church leaders.
At age 85, in poor health, Pope Benedict XVI is not up to the task and he knows it. The last pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1417, and he was heavily criticized for it. Dante even wrote him into The Divine Comedy, as an occupant of hell.
By contrast, it comes as a relief to many to see Benedict go. He may have even been pressured to leave. He was a weak leader during some of the darkest hours of the Church’s 2,000-year history – the sexual abuse revelations. Many people felt the pope did not do all that he could have for the victims — or to punish their abusers. The scandal shone a harsh light on the Church and Benedict shrank from it.
So the next pope, whoever he is, will be forced to confront the issues Pope Benedict was unable to resolve:
- Sexual abuse scandals
- Spread of Protestantism in former Catholic strongholds
- Dwindling number of clergy in the West
- Weariness of “religion” throughout the West
The only official qualification to be considered for the papacy is that the candidate must be a baptized male. There are many other qualities that make a man papabile, or pope material, such as intelligence, credibility, and experience. And age: most candidates are hovering around age 70.
The Cardinal Electors know they must pick the right man, but there is no way of knowing who they favor. The mainstream media has settled on three front-runners:
1. Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, is definitely the favorite. Ouellet, however, is openly hesitant about papal responsibilities. He recently described the idea of taking them on as “a nightmare”.
2. Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, is a conservative scholar on bioethics and Catholic-Muslim relations. Scola has strong ties with the Italian political establishment.
3. Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 69, is a social conservative who is politically savvy. The Cardinal is a strong advocate of transparent government.
Other candidates ‘in the running’ are:
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, is a conservative with powerful communication skills. He manages to fully support the Catholic doctrine without sounding legalistic.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 64, is a charismatic candidate from Ghana. If elected, he would be the first African pope in hundreds of years.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, is an Argentine. There has never been a South American pope. A Sandri papacy would aim to ignite enthusiasm.
Knowing what is at stake, will the Cardinals play it safe or make a bold change?
I look for a dark horse Italian pope, specifically I have a premonition Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi is the man. Tettamanzi is a 71-year-old Cardinal with ties to Opus Dei, a controversial Catholic group. Tettamanzi is viewed as socially liberal with strong political views, such as anti-globalization.
Could a ‘dark horse’ win? Absolutely, thanks to Pope John Paul II who abolished the rule that a Pope must be elected with a two-thirds majority plus one. If there’s no consensus after 30 ballots, the candidate with a simple majority is elected to the office.
Pay attention to this election – it is going to make or break the most powerful Church on earth.