Editorial: The crying room-A A +A
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
IN A room off the Sistine Chapel, three white garments of different sizes await the next pope. This is known as “the crying room,” presumably because this is where the new pope begins to absorb the enormity of what has happened to him.
The Associated Press and most major western news agencies have framed the search for the new pope as a choice between an uber-manager, who can clean up the inner workings of the Vatican, and a charismatic figure who can inspire millions worldwide to fill the pews.
In the Philippines, the expectations tend to be more pragmatic.
Asked what qualities they hope Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s successor would have, some Catholics chose youth and liberal leanings. They expressed hope for a new Vicar of Christ who would also address such human problems as poverty and need. Open-mindedness and greater transparency in the Vatican’s decisions, especially in cases of sexual abuse by priests, were also popular answers.
It’s as if themes bandied about in the secular world, like transparency among public officials, were wending their way to the Vatican, that most secretive global institution today.
But there is a point to the Vatican’s secrecy, to the fact that cardinals swear an oath to keep the conclave’s affairs confidential.
For one, it prevents any attempt to cast doubt or sow division, while the new pope struggles to forge his path through his many pressing challenges.
Second, and more importantly, the papacy remains as one of the few truly grand offices of our postmodern times, when every authority is viewed with skepticism.
As a voice, the papacy may have weakened in Europe and North America. But in Asia, where the church is growing, the pope continues to be immutable—that he is chosen in secret adds to, instead of diminishes, his appeal because it makes him larger-than-life. And these are times when grandeur is in short supply.
One of these days, the smoke from the Sistine Chapel will herald the news. In the meantime, the crying room waits, for the man who enters the chapel as a prince, but leaves it almost a god.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2013.