Cardinals look to Europe for new pope

The cardinals who could well be voting for the next pope now number 121 -- 40 per cent of them appointed by Benedict XVI -- following the consistory this morning in Rome, a solemn and colourful occasion in which the new members of the College promise to defend the Church even at the cost of martyrdom (hence the scarlet, colour of blood). 

Some 24 new cardinals, 20 of whom are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave, have expanded the College in total to 203, 121 of whom are electors. See Reuters list of the new cardinals and their nationalities here.

As commentators have been pointing out, the College now has a more distinctly Italian -- and European - -feel. The Europeans now have a slight majority (62 out of 121) in the College.

One should be wary of reading too much into this; the fact that Benedict XVI has (to some extent) re-Italianised the Curia and re-Europeanised the College after an internationalisation of both under John Paul II, may in part simply reflect the available pool of talent.

But the European focus of Benedict XVI's pontificate -- his attempt to combat the "dictatorship of relativism" and to win back Europe's soul -- is beyond dispute. Of his 18 international trips, 12 have been to European nations.  While the US, Latin America, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East all have their particular needs and challenges, some of these are beyond the scope of popes to do much about -- whereas Europe, Benedict XVI is convinced, can be won back.

And while the Catholic Church, demographically, looks less European every day, Europe's place in the world -- and the Church's in Europe -- is unique. As Jean-Marie Guenois of Le Figaro points out, "Benedict has understood that while the global epicenter of Catholicism shifts every day to the southern hemisphere, that vast region can never replace the weight of history and culture."

Hence the recently-founded Agency for the New Evangelization which was founded with Europe -- and especially Spain -- in mind. 

It's hard not to believe that these priorities are also being laid down for his successor. The next pope will want to see through this project, building on Benedict XVI's project of equipping the Church to confront the new rationalism which is seeking to constrict and in some cases to banish Catholicism from the public sphere.

That's why -- assuming the College agrees with this strategy -- the next Pope is likely to be a European. He could be an Italian, but it is unlikely he'll be a curial cardinal -- which makes him more likely to be from outside Italy.

Benedict XVI's stamina is extraordinary; for his age, he is remarkable. But he is tired, and the grace of office does not defeat the march of time. The word in Rome is that there is a strong likelihood that this consistory has created the College that will elect the Pope's successor. 

And word is, they'll be looking to another European.

 

 

David McCarthy
6 years 3 months ago
I predict it'll come down to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Cardinal Peter Turkson.
Thomas Piatak
6 years 3 months ago
The Pope is right.  The Church must make every effort to win back the continent that has been the center of Christendom and that spread Christianity to every corner of the globe.  As Belloc said, the Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith.
6 years 3 months ago
The obvious preponderance of European votes in the next papal conclave triggers the thought of another related, interesting and rather current question:  the age of the voting cardinals as well as the pope's own age.

Cardinals reaching the age of 80 can no longer cast their vote in the election of a pope. The newly elected  pope, however, can continue to reign as pope even after reaching that now canonically critical age.

This appears strange and unfair:  which is easier, electing a pope, or being pope and govern the universal church?

If there is wisdom in the exclusion of the cardinals over 80 from a papal conclave, the same wisdom would suggest also the canonical retirement of the pope on his 80th birthday. 

Should such wisdom be questionable, let all cardinals continue to be valid papal electors as long as they live. If not, let even the pope canonically resign on reaching the age of 80.

When a pope is elected, all cardinals would know the exact date of the next conclave, namely the 80th birthday of the newly elected pope, barring of course the possible sudden death of even a young reigning pontiff.

Knowing in advance the exact date of the next papal election would greatly simplify for all cardinals their planning and scheduling of important meetings, retreats, anniversaries and necessary travel.

Cardinals would no longer be surprised by the sudden illness of an aging Holy Father or, worse perhaps, by his possible lingering incapacitated for weeks and even months as pope.

Five years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 78, were the two closest papabili. 

Today, Cardinal Ratzinger, 83, is pope, and Cardinal Martini, 83, is legally unable even to vote for a pope.  Videant consules...  
 

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