3 April 2005
Down in the Conclave
I had just finished one year in a Catholic grade school when Pope John XXIII died, so you can be sure that we were steeped in the rules and regulations of replacing a Pontiff, at least to the extent it was possible to explain these things to someone just out of the fourth grade. And they've changed somewhat over the years John Paul II himself made the last few alterations in 1996 but given the Church's devotion to ritual, the basics are essentially unaltered.
One thing that's changed in the last forty years is the restriction of voting for the new Pope to cardinals under the age of 80. (Eleven of the 13 American cardinals meet this requirement.)
Father Thomas J. Reese explains the transition and election process here. Reese's prediction is interesting:
I think the next pope will be a cardinal between 62 and 72 years of age, who speaks Italian and English and reflects John Paul's positions (liberal on social justice and peace, traditional in church teaching and practice, and ecumenical but convinced the church has the truth) but has a very different personality and is a supporter of less centralization in the church and therefore probably not a curial cardinal.
The Curia is the Vatican bureaucracy, which includes nearly a quarter of the cardinals.
And it's unseemly to make side bets on the outcome of the Conclave, but if I have a favorite, it's probably Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa; he's fairly close to Father Reese's criteria (he's 62), and there is reportedly some substantial sentiment among the cardinals to pick someone outside Europe.
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» Shoot-out at O.K. Conclave from This Blog Will be Deleted by Tomorrow
Of course, the big question now is who is going to be the next pope. I have made my preference known almost a month ago, though I am afraid that instead of a pope, Ratzinger might in the end become the pope-maker,...[read more]