Choosing a new pope-A A +A
Monday, March 11, 2013
THE Vatican has announced that a conclave to elect a pope who would succeed the resigned Pope Benedict XVI has been set for tomorrow, starting with a special mass in the morning at St. Peter’s Basilica before the 115 cardinals will proceed to the Sistine Chapel to begin the secret balloting. The Philippines is merely seven hours ahead of Rome so reports about the conclave will start filtering to us from the Vatican late tomorrow afternoon.
While our very own Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been touted in reports as a papabile, it is wrong to assume that his becoming a pope would be a cinch. Just think that Tagle won’t get the vote. It’s better to be surprised when results are in than to be frustrated.
A conclave is not a congress of a trapo party in the Philippines where maneuvering and scheming is the norm. Campaigning is not allowed and the cardinals are locked up inside the Vatican for the duration of the proceedings--without newspapers, television or radio, and not even, for the techie “voter,” Internet and its popular Facebook or Twitter.
There will be one round of voting tomorrow afternoon and, if need be, two in the mornings and two in the afternoons of the succeeding days until a cardinal gets the required two-thirds vote to become pope. Like what many of us already know, the ballots are burned in a special stove and treated with a chemical to produce black smoke (no pope yet). To get the white smoke (“Habemus Papam”), either another kind of chemical is added or no chemical is added at all.
Going into tomorrow’s voting, the cardinals have reportedly reached a consensus on the qualities of a new pope that they want. The New York Times summed up the said qualities this way: “a pastoral communicator, a firm administrator, a reformer of the Vatican’s scandal-tainted bureaucracy.” These are supposedly in response to the major problems the church is facing.
The new pope needs to prop up the sagging morale of the Catholic faithful worldwide like what the late Pope John Paul II did while at the same time deal with the Vatican’s bureaucracy, the Roman Curia, some of whose officials are supposedly either corrupt or inept or both. He must also purge the church of wayward priests, notably those involved in sexual misconduct.
While I trust the good sense and honest intention of the cardinals, I also hope that the next pope would indeed be able to bring respect back to a church that is being bashed everywhere and even by Catholics, for transgressions done by a few priests. I like the idea of reinculcating in the clergy the “missionary zeal” that they possessed in Catholicism’s early days.
Priests in the country, for example, need to spend more time in villages or barangays and less in the convents. They should “touch” people beyond those who regularly attend masses every Sunday (incidentally, the parable of the prodigal son figured in sermons yesterday).
I spent around seven years in some hinterland barangays of Cebu City and Bohol and noticed how rarely priests penetrate the remote villages of these areas. In barangays in the urban enclaves, they overly rely on lay ministers and mandated organizations to reach out to the barangays, notably in places where the faith is rapidly being eroded, like in the slums.
My lasting memory of priests has always been about a Redemptorist priest, a Caucasian, who would visit our place to talk with parishioners and give candies to us children.
In the hospital where I was frequently admitted for my bouts with asthma, a priest would also regularly visit the patients, giving solace and reminding them of God just by his mere presence.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 12, 2013.