‘Conclave 101’-A A +A
Saturday, March 9, 2013
FILIPINOS are on tenterhooks as 115 cardinals begin the conclave to elect a new pontiff Tuesday. “Having a confirmed date focuses minds.”
All cardinals will celebrate mass Tuesday morning. In the afternoon, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and 114 other electors will enter the Sistine Chapel.
Once they have taken an oath of secrecy, the words Extra omnes ("Everybody out") will ring out.
Cardinals over 80, like Cebu’s Ricardo Vidal, will leave and the doors will swing shut. Do you think behind locked doors cardinals hurriedly whisper as they bid for votes? “You’d be bored to tears,” the late Cardinal Franz König laughed.
“What goes on is more akin to a liturgy than a political convention. Long stretches of time are spent in silence and prayer. No floor speeches. No kingmaker dangling support. No concessions and no victory laps.
Tagle and the other 114 cardinals vote one by one. All told, one round of balloting can take an hour or more to complete, so that two ballots are, in effect, a morning's or afternoon's work.
So, where is the action? In the “general congregations” that took place after Benedict XVI resigned. The sede vacante, or interregnum, then began.
That’s where the sifting began.
Among critical areas to watch is the global realities of Catholicism. Two-thirds of today’s 1.2 billion Catholics live in the southern hemisphere. The total will surge to three-quarters by mid-century. Yet, 80 percent of the acts of religious discrimination are directed against Christians.
For Catholics arrested, beaten or killed from Nigeria to India, their fate seem worthy of papal attention as debates over fine points of worship. “That doesn’t mean the next pope has to be a non-European,” Allen writes. But there’s a growing sense “he must act as a tribune for this burgeoning, and sometimes beleaguered, Catholic cohort outside the West.”
Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI underscored a “missionary church.” The “New Evangelization,” which the last Synod endorsed, seeks to relight missionary fires of the faith, especially among the alienated or dropouts from sloth or indifference.
In the US alone, there are 22 million ex-Catholics, “enough to constitute the country’s second-largest religious denomination, if so minded.” This suggests preference for a pope with extensive experience working in parishes, able to gauge what works at the grassroots. “It may mean a pope who’s slightly less cerebral–a pastor, not a professor.”
Administration: “Benedict was a magnificent teaching pope, but a mixed bag as a governor. He was ill-served by key aides. The next pope should take the reins of governance more directly in his own hands. The bottom line is that many cardinals may want a pope who’s as much a business manager and CEO as a cultural critic.
Perspective: “Benedict is the best example of the Vatican’s legendary penchant for thinking in centuries. Yet, this long view also insulated Benedict from the fallout of crisis. “It’s all well and good to ponder what the world will think in two or three centuries,” a cardinal says, “But I have to live in the world of today.”
What Comes Next? Benedict separated the end of his papacy from the end of his life. He thus ensured that the run-up to the ballot will not be dominated by elegiac commentary that always follows the death of a major world leader, as Pope John Paul II’s death in April 2005.
“Benedict XVI has created a situation in which the cardinals can move in a somewhat different direction, if they’re so inclined, without seeming to speak ill of the dead.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 10, 2013.