Signs of the Times

Pope John Paul II Dies After Long Struggle With Illness

Pope John Paul II died on April 2 after a long struggle with illness, ending a historic papacy of more than 26 years. The Vatican announced the pope’s death at 9:54 p.m. Rome time, two days after the pontiff suffered septic shock and heart failure brought on by a urinary tract infection. The pope died at 9:37 p.m., the Vatican said. Some 70,000 people attended a Mass for the pope in St. Peter’s Square the following day. His body was brought to St. Peter’s Basilica for public viewing and prayer on April 4. The funeral took place on April 8.

The Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, said, The Holy Father’s final hours were marked by the uninterrupted prayer of all those who were assisting him in his pious death and by the choral participation in prayer of the thousands of faithful who, for many hours, had been gathered in St. Peter’s Square.


The spokesman said those at the pope’s bedside at the moment of his death included: his personal secretaries, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz and Msgr. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki; Cardinal Marian Jaworski, the Latin-rite archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, and a longtime friend of the pope; Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; and Father Tadeusz Styczen, a former student of the pope’s and director of the John Paul II Institute at Lublin University in Poland. Also present were the three nuns who cared for the pope’s apartment, the pope’s personal physician, two other doctors and two nurses.

About 90 minutes before the pope died, Navarro-Valls said, the cardinals and priests at the pope’s bedside began celebrating the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. During the course of the Mass the pope received Communion and the anointing of the sick.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who had served as the pope’s secretary of state, celebrated a memorial Mass for the pope on April 3 in the square. The cardinal said Pope John Paul had spent his entire papacy promoting the civilization of love against the forces of hatred in the world and had called the church to be a house of mercy, to welcome all those who need help, forgiveness and love.

In Warsaw, the capital of the pope’s native Poland, the pope’s death was marked by the tolling of church bells and the sounding of air-raid sirens. On Polish television, several commentators were in tears as they announced the pope’s death.

Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, who visited the dying pope, described the scene in the pope’s bedroom: Assisted by several doctors and his personal staff, the pontiff lay serenely on a bed in the middle of his room, comforted by cushions, occasionally opening his eyes in greeting to the handful of visitors allowed inside.

At his last, poignant public appearance, at his apartment window, on March 30, the pope greeted pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square and tried in vain to speak to them. After four minutes, he was wheeled from view, and the curtains of his apartment window were drawn for the last time.

Some Candidates

Despite years of public speculation by the media and private reflection by the cardinals, there is no clear favorite in the conclave that will convene on April 18 to elect the 265th Roman pontiff. The cardinals who are considered the strongest candidates for election include several from Italy and other European countries, at least three from Latin America and an African.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, 71, is considered by many the front-runner. Short, stout and quick to smile, he is viewed as a theological conservative with a strong social conscience. He is seasoned in church administration, having held key positions in the Italian bishops’ conference. A teacher of moral theology for 20 years, he helped prepare Pope John Paul’s encyclical on human life issues, Evangelium Vitae, and in 2000 he published online an e-book on medical ethics. He is also considered one of the Italian church’s top experts in marriage and family ministry, the lay apostolate and youth formation.

Increasingly, Cardinal Tettamanzi has spoken out on social issues at home and abroad, highlighting in particular the populations left behind by globalization. He drew criticism from the right when, as archbishop of Genoa in 2001, he defended protesters at a G-8 meeting in the city and spoke movingly of the new situations of poverty in the world. In Milan, he has repeatedly challenged the city to live up to Gospel values in the way they treat society’s weakest members.

Cardinal Tettamanzi came to the media’s attention at the 1999 Synod of Bishops for Europe, where some leading bishops suggested a churchwide council to examine possible reforms and a less-centralized style of church governance. At a closing press conference, Cardinal Tettamanzi said the proposal had found no echo at the synod.

Cardinal Angelo Scola, 63, is a respected theologian who has headed the Patriarchate of Venice since 2002. Considered by many as a cultural warrior, his eagerness to push church teachings in the public forum has earned him plaudits from other church leaders. He travels extensively, speaks several languages and remains a prolific writer despite a heavy pastoral schedule.

Cardinal Scola is considered a friend of new church movements, having spent several years with the Communion and Liberation movement as a young student and priest in Milan. He has tried to stimulate lay formation in Venice, inaugurating an important new educational complex that offers theology degrees followed by specialist studies in bioethics, business ethics, art and social sciences. He also has forged new contacts with Orthodox churches and reached out to support Christian minorities in the Middle East.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who worked for years in the pope’s shadow as papal vicar of Rome, is seen as a long-shot Italian candidate who, if elected, would press ahead with the late pope’s agenda. President of the Italian bishops’ conference since 1991, Cardinal Ruini, 73, gets high marks for administration but low marks for charisma. After the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, he supported the right of the United States to respond militarily. In Italy, he has pressed hard against legislative attempts to introduce euthanasia and opposed a number of proposals that would weaken the traditional definition of the family.

Church leaders in Rome who yearn for a strong administrator as pope sometimes point to Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, 71, who spent years as the number two man at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and has run the Congregation for Bishops since 2000. His lack of pastoral experience would be a serious handicap during a conclave. Another long shot is Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, 68, archbishop of Florence, a theological moderate and personable pastor.

Other Europeans frequently mentioned as potential papal candidates include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 71, who has called for more openness and more consultation in the way the church deals with some key issues; and Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, a Dominican who helped write the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but is probably too young. Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, 78, a Jesuit biblical scholar and retired archbishop of Milan, remains a popular pastoral figure in Italy and is expected to be influential in the conclave. He may have some support as a candidate despite his age.

Latin America, home to more than 40 percent of the world’s Catholics and the biggest voting bloc of cardinals after Europe, has at least three cardinals frequently mentioned as strong papal candidates:

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, 62, whose age may count against him with cardinals wary of another long pontificate. Charismatic, plainspoken and fluent in seven languages, he served as president of the Latin American bishops’ council, or CELAM, from 1995 to 1999, promoting a wide range of economic justice initiatives between North and South America. More recently, he made headlines when he criticized what he called a media witch hunt against the Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse by clerics. That might have lost him points among some U.S. observers, but did not hurt his standing with some other prelates around the world.

Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the 70-year-old Franciscan who heads the populous Archdiocese of São Paolo. The son of German immigrants, he was named bishop of Santo André in 1975 and gained pastoral experience among laborers, sometimes mediating between companies and unions. He has strongly defended the church’s family and pro-life teachings.

A constant theme of Cardinal Hummes’s pastoral work has been protecting human dignity in areas of the family, labor and economic justice. At a Christmas fund-raiser for a church-run job-training center, he said: Jesus was born poor among the poor to call our attention to the social injustice that makes a portion of humanity increasingly poor, suffering, humiliated and excluded from sufficient access to the goods of the earth.

As a bishop in the late 1970’s, he opened the doors of churches as a refuge for those hunted by the military regime. When he headed the Archdiocese of Fortaleza in the 1990’s, he strengthened his fame as a peacemaker, this time by opening the doors to new Catholic movements, such as the charismatics, without generating tensions among the more progressive basic Christian communities.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 68-year-old Jesuit who has a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership. An author of books on spirituality and meditation, since 1998 he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people. He rides the bus, visits the poor and a few years ago made a point of washing the feet of 12 AIDS sufferers on Holy Thursday. He also has created 17 new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorced people. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well known to the world’s bishops.

Latin Americans at the Vatican also point to two sometimes overlooked church leaders in Mexico, each of whom has a reputation as socially liberal and theologically conservative in the Pope John Paul tradition: Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, 62; and Cardinal Juan Sandoval íñiguez of Guadalajara, 72.

Among the African cardinals, one stands out: Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, a member of the Ibo tribe, who converted to Christianity as a child. He excelled as a young bishop in northern Nigeria in a period marked by strife and hunger, before being called to the Vatican in 1985 to head the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He firmly adhered to Pope John Paul’s line on dialogue: It is essential in a shrinking world for religions to respect one another, but this can never diminish the church’s duty to announce Christ.

In 2002, Cardinal Arinze was promoted to head the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacramentsonly the second time an African cardinal has headed one of the nine top Vatican departments. In 2004, the congregation issued an important document taking aim at a wide range of liturgical abuses, and it has continued to exercise close control of liturgical translations.

During the congregation’s plenary session in March 2005, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic of Toronto said Cardinal Arinze ran the meeting briskly, keeping order but in a democratic and fair way. He’s simple, in an intelligent kind of way, Cardinal Ambrozic said. Known for his blunt talk and sense of humor, Cardinal Arinze has close ties to conservative Catholic groups in the United States.

Other potential candidates can be found among the ranks of well-known as well as relatively unknown cardinals:

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the 77-year-old prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has been the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog since 1981. In the eyes of many, he was the dominant curial figure in the last pontificate, and he would be an attractive choice to those who want an even clearer line against dissent inside the church.

Whether a candidate or not, Cardinal Ratzinger will certainly be an influential force, or grand elector, in the conclave. As dean of the College of Cardinals, he will preside over the daily congregations of cardinals and guide their discussions in the period leading up to the election.

Portuguese Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, the 69-year-old patriarch of Lisbon, who is seen by some as a potential bridge candidate between Europe and Latin America. A former academic and a prolific writer, the cardinal has produced articles and books ranging from Marian spiritualityreflecting the Portuguese devotion to Our Lady of Fatimato the moral and spiritual challenges of modern society.

Shortly after being made a cardinal in 2001, he participated in a meeting with Pope John Paul and more than 150 other cardinals to discuss the church and the third millennium. Afterward, he said the key conclusion was that evangelization is witness. The church must give a radical witness of holiness, charity and poverty.

In recent years, Cardinal Policarpo has made overtures to Muslims and Jews, emphasizing the common social agenda of all believers. But as he told the Synod of Bishops in 2001, the church cannot follow a merely cultural and sociological notion of dialogue. For the church, he said, dialogue starts with faith in Jesus and in the Gospel. The church listens to others after listening to the word of God, responding to questions and challenges by living the faith more deeply and completely, he said.

Cardinal Nicolás López Rodríguez of the Dominican Republic, 68, who organized the church’s celebration of the fifth centenary of the evangelization of the Americas in Santo Domingo in 1992. A past president of CELAM, he has emphasized evangelization in the region and insisted that the church’s concern for the poor must not be exclusive or excluding. A strong voice on family issues, he has been sharply critical of U.S.-supported abortion and sterilization campaigns, comparing them to the work of death squads.

Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is considered an Asian long shot among papal contenders. A longtime Vatican diplomat who is fluent in 17 languages, the 68-year-old prelate was named to Mumbai in 1996. Cardinal Dias has endorsed the teachings of the controversial Vatican document Dominus Iesus, saying the church has no choice but to announce Christ as the only mediator between God and humanity. He is the type of pastoral leader the Vatican hopes will lead the evangelization advance in India and the rest of Asia. Insiders add that the cardinal has a sense of humor and that his jokes made the late pope laugh.

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13 years 6 months ago
Some Candidates

While "Signs of the Times" is an important feature of AMERICA, it is also a dumping ground for "tidbits" of news, sort of a begrudging admission that AMERICA is a chronicler of events, as well as a paradigm of thought. This one , "Some Candidates", was so well done, so important, that it should be printed out and carried on one's person for instant reference whenever the topic comes up, "Who do you think the next Pope will be?" The brevity of the bios was its most startling feature. The entire selection warranted it to be featured as a Leading Article, notwithstanding the aura of greatness in the names of the authors of the rest of the pieces in this excellent issue. Well done.

13 years 6 months ago
Some Candidates

While "Signs of the Times" is an important feature of AMERICA, it is also a dumping ground for "tidbits" of news, sort of a begrudging admission that AMERICA is a chronicler of events, as well as a paradigm of thought. This one , "Some Candidates", was so well done, so important, that it should be printed out and carried on one's person for instant reference whenever the topic comes up, "Who do you think the next Pope will be?" The brevity of the bios was its most startling feature. The entire selection warranted it to be featured as a Leading Article, notwithstanding the aura of greatness in the names of the authors of the rest of the pieces in this excellent issue. Well done.


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