Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Next Pope

One doesn't have to be Catholic or even Christian to appreciate the influence on modern history of Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II. He was a powerful, charismatic leader during a dynamic time in history, and among many other accomplishments he will be remembered as a pivotal figure in the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire. He was also a moral conservative, leading the Church with a firm, consistent hand during a time when traditional beliefs and practices were constantly challenged.

During the next few weeks there will be endless guessing about which cardinal will emerge as pope. The conclave of cardinals can technically pick any Catholic in good moral standing, but it's a virtual certainty they will select one of their own. No one should expect the selection of a revolutionary who will radically transform the Church. That isn't the way the modern papacy functions, and, perhaps most important, all but a few of the cardinals who will vote in the conclave were selected by John Paul II and generally reflect his views.

It's said that speculating on the outcome of a conclave is always dangerous, as reflected in the old axiom, "He who enters as a pope emerges as a cardinal." However, the selection process is fascinating, and the urge to speculate is unavoidable.

Here's a Washington Post article on likely candidates to be the next pope. This is an MSNBC report on political considerations in the selection, including the likelihood that it won't be an American. Finally, an interesting article from Time speculating on the influence of the mysterious organization Opus Dei.

The historical evolution of papal selection and details of the procedure are here and here.


Blogger Esther said...

He was also tremendous in the way he reached out to people of other religions. He was the first Pope to travel to Israel and visit the Western Wall, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) and a synagogue. I sure hope the one who replaces him can continue this.

6:22 PM, April 05, 2005  

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