NEWS:  January 30, 2012

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

A CHANGE OF POPES? SPECULATIONS  -   Even as an indubitable Catholic, I cannot deny acumen in the choice of some idols of paganism. This is the case of the Roman god Janus, who has two faces, one evaluating the past, the other foreseeing the future. It is a symbol that reflects transition periods very well. This is why the first month of the year, January, took its name from that old mythology of Janus. It is customary in January to ponder how things went the past year and to make forecasts for the upcoming one. This January has seen an abundance of both types of comments.

Among the conjectures I read about potential changes in the Church in 2012, the most interesting were those regarding the possible end of Pope Ratzinger's pontificate and the consequent election of a new Pope.

The Tablet magazine of London, for example, points to this coming April when Benedict XVI will be 85 and states: "Only four other Popes since the end of the 13th century have made it to 86 years of age, of which the most recent was Pope Leo XIII, who died at age 93 in 1903."

Benedict XVI rests in public

Benedict increasingly shows signs of fatigue in public
Then Robert Mickens, the magazine's correspondent in Rome, takes a sinuous route to justify why he presents his candidates for the papacy:

"Although Pope Benedict's general health appears to be good, he has begun to show signs of fatigue and increasingly frailty. History and prudence would suggest that the Cardinals of the Church should seriously start thinking about a suitable candidate to succeed him... They must avoid being caught unprepared, as apparently they were at the last conclave, when a number of Cardinals publicly confessed they did not know their confreres very well" (The Tablet, December 31, 2011, p. 3).

It is a tortuous way to say that the death of John Paul II came as a surprise. Indeed, it was and it still is not clear how an alleged cold could take the life of that healthy, athletic Polish Pope of strong constitution. So, taking this "history" into consideration, he suggests that another sort of "cold" could come and also put Benedict out of the picture. Consequently, the Cardinals should be prepared for this eventuality.

A datum that is not in this article, but could have been, is that in his book Light of the World, Benedict responds to the question of whether he has considered resigning. His response: "When a Pope arrives at a clear awareness that he no longer has the physical, mental, or psychological capacity to carry out the task that has been entrusted to him, then he has the right, and in some cases, even the duty to resign" (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010, p. 30)

Rumors along these lines have been circulating at the Vatican for sometime since 2008, as we have reported, and they returned since August of last year, as reported by La Stampahere.

Thus, it could be that Pope Ratzinger will resign from the papacy and retire, perhaps to his cottage in the Italian Alps to improve his pianist skills until God calls him for a face-to-face account. It would be a softer version, befitting his character, of the rude hermit's cave in the Abruzzi where St. Celestine V returned after he renounced the papacy in 1294.

The papabili

After The Tablet journalist establishes his presuppositions, he goes on to speculate on who would be the most probable candidates for the Chair of Peter. He lists eight Cardinals suitable for the position; all of them speak fluent Italian. Among them the five best contenders placed in decrescendo are:

Pope Benedict playing piano

Will he retire to play the piano?
  • Angelo Scola, Italian, age 70, linked to Communione e Liberazione movement. Like Benedict XVI he is a partisan of the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac. Scola was Patriarch of Venice, and today is Archbishop of Milan.

  • Odilo Scherer, Brazilian, age 62. This descendent of German immigrants is the head of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, which happens to be the largest diocese in the world's largest Catholic country. Scherer is a man of compromise who may appeal to both Europeans and Latin Americans.

  • Peter Turkson, an African from Ghana, age 63. His mother converted from Methodism. He is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and holds progressivist views on Morals; namely, he takes a progressivist stance on the use of condoms to avoid AIDS.

  • Oscar Maradiaga, Honduran, age 70. The Archbishop of Tegucigalpa is known for his social teaching favoring the poor and against the rich. He is president of Caritas International.

  • Christoph Schönborn, age 67, Archbishop of Vienna and the strongest European candidate outside Italy. In theology he is a follower of Joseph Ratzinger, von Balthasar and de Lubac. It seems improbable, however, that the Cardinals would elect two German-speaking Prelates in a row to the papacy.
Twenty-two new Cardinals were created by the Pope this January. They will receive their red hats this coming February 18. It would be surprising if the next Pope would be one of them. None stands out particularly as a probable candidate. They were chosen mostly for diplomatic or honorific reasons, that is, they either are in posts of the Roman Curia that presume the title of Cardinal, such as Fernando Filoni, who is Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and until now lacked the equivalent title, or are heads of Archdioceses that also call for this title, like Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

A German force in the Vatican

For a complete picture on a possible papal election, I believe we must add the presence of an influential German force in the Vatican. It is my opinion that the Rhine did not stop flowing into the Tiber after the Council closed, to use the apt metaphor of Fr. Ralph Wiltgen. I am afraid that the same force which controlled Vatican II and drove the victory to Progressivism, remains alive and has been comfortably installed in the Vatican for quite a while, let us say, at least from 1978 on.

German prelates in the Vatican

A German team with increasing influence. Top left, Cardinals Bea, Dopfner & Kasper; center left, Mayer, Wetter & Meisner; bottom, the pope-makers Cardinals of Vienna, Konig & Schonborn.
Indeed, although the rules say that the minutiae of any papal election should not leave the walls of the Sistine Chapel, it happens that the details of the choice of John Paul II were widely known. We can find these data in newspapers, magazines, books and even on the Internet.

After an impasse between the two main candidates (Giuseppe Siri & Giovanni Benelli) where neither could achieve the absolute majority needed to elect a Pope, Card. Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna, proposed the name of one of his protégés, the 58-year-old Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, who quickly received the necessary ballots.

It seems that Wojtyla's links with the Germans were deeper than a momentary political support. John Paul II increased the German presence in the Curia by naming Rhine theologians for the three of more important dicasteries of the Holy See: Joseph Ratzinger for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with a voice as well in many other Congregations, Paul Mayer for the Congregation for the Divine Worship, and Walter Kasper for president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Shortly, more German names appeared in services of the Curia, for example, Cardinal Joachim Meisner received seats in the important Congregations for the Cause of the Saints, for Divine Worship for the Clergy, and also has a decisive voice in the Prefecture for Economic Affairs. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was given important positions in the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Eastern Churches, as well as in the Pontifical Council for Culture. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter received high posts in the Congregations for the Evangelization of the Peoples and for Catholic Education.

When JPII died, it was again the Cardinal of Vienna, now Christoph Schönborn, who proposed Card. Ratzinger to the Cardinals. With him elected Pope, the influence of this German force could not be stronger.

Thus, if I am not wrong, in a future papal election, besides the traditional influence of the Roman Curia with its moderate-conservative tendency, we should take into consideration what this powerful German force, mostly progressivist, wants to do.

Only then can we objectively evaluate who may be elected Pope in a future conclave.


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