Blinking from smoke-A A +A
Saturday, February 23, 2013
JEROME Kern, in 1933, composed "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Does that have anything to do with the papal conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI?
Is that black smoke drifting upwards from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney after ballots of 116 cardinal electors are burnt? This centuries-old system signals no one got a two-thirds vote.
White smoke summons people to gather at Piazza di San Pietro. To avoid confusion, bells will peal out. Habemus Papam (“We have a pope”) proclaims the dean of cardinals.
The first day after Benedict steps down is the first day of the "sede vacante." The conclave could start March 10, instead of 15, with a quarter-to-midnight ruling from Benedict XVI. Rome correspondents speculate. Then, the Vatican may say: Habemus Conclave.
Speculation on the “papabili” intensify. These include: Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, Marc Quillet, Canada, Peter Turkson of Ghana and the Philippines own Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Filipino Catholics plump for Cardinal Chito, known for serving the poorest. “The cardinal developed a taste for slum staple: rejected chicken legs made into stew by most deprived families.”
“Tagle could become the first developing world pope, in the absence of notable Church leaders in Africa and Latin America, where the majority of the world's Catholics live,” Vatican analyst Sandro Magister speculates.
Indeed, "some are charismatic preachers, like Manila’s 55-year-old Cardinal Luis Tagle,” Tom Heneghan wrote in Faith World. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 63, effectively debates moral issues in public.
Speculation about any cardinal’s chances because of age or passport overlooks a key element: universality, a church official cautions. ”It’s thinking about the best man, not necessarily geographical balance or someone different from the last pope…But you can never predict what happens at a conclave.”
Or after any conclave for that matter. The 1958 conclave elected 77-year-old Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli as a caretaker. As Pope John XXII, he convened the Second Vatican Council which recast the church. Its unimplemented reforms will challenge the 257th successor to Peter elected this March.
For now, there is no front-runner among potential candidates. Benedict named 57.3 percent of the current cardinal-electors. “It’s extraordinary that he’s been able to create this majority in eight years,” writes the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet.
“I can imagine a Latin American or African pope,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch, 62, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity and relations with Jews. “Do we want a longer papacy or not?”
“You don’t necessarily need a rock star, but you need someone who can talk to young people,” says retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He must, at the same time, overhaul 22 often disorganized Curia departments with less than saints heading them.
In 1997, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said on Bavarian television TV: “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!...Probably the only assurance (the Spirit) offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”
Smoke interrupts the centuries-old rites, when the newly elected pope takes the seat of St. Peter. A monk holds aloft a burning piece of flax. The pontiff’s eyes smart from the rising smoke. “Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi," the monk says. “Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 24, 2013.