Perhaps never in history have the stakes been higher in the quest for a pope. New World churchmen especially have been pushing for transparency. The scandals which plagued Benedict’s XVI’s papacy deeply concern these authorities.
The participants in the discussions have asked to know the contents of a confidential report which Benedict commissioned on alleged financial and sexual crimes in the Roman Catholic Church, even though the week before last the Vatican said the report’s contents were for the new pope’s eyes only.
American Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo expressed a thirst for insight: “Obviously, we want to know and learn as much as we can relative to governance in the Church, and the Curia is part of that issue. So, certainly we want to discuss and learn what we can, and I think that will go on as long as the cardinals feel they need the information.”
That was on Monday. Now the US cardinals have agreed to stop giving press briefings in Rome. The word came from Vatican officials, who appeared worried about any more leaks.
The scandal known as ‘Vatileaks’ allegedly exposed corruption in the Vatican. The Americans had access to insider knowledge when Carlo Maria Vigano was sent to Washington as the Vatican City’s ambassador. He wrote to Benedict to complain he felt ostracised for having revealed information about contract-fixing in the Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and governing body of the whole Church.
Europe has just one quarter of the world’s Catholics. The highest number is in North, Central and South America. Almost as many Africans are Catholics as Europeans, according to percentages shown on the Vatican website. Brazil has more than any other country.
More than half the cardinals heading into the papal election conclave are European – 59. But non-European votes will be decisive. The successful candidate needs a two-thirds majority of at least 77 in his favour. All but two of the 115 “cardinal electors” aged under 80 have arrived for the pre-conclave meetings, the Vatican said.
Given the numbers of faithful outside the traditional bastion continent, last November Benedict elevated six non-European priests to the rank of cardinal, following pressure from critics.
Observers say this raises the chances of an outsider ascending the throne.
Journalist Fabio Zavattaro used to work in Italy’s main Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, before joining RAI Uno state television to cover the Vatican. He was close to the Holy See while John Paul II was dying and when Benedict XVI was elected, so he has already watched a major transition, in depth.
Fabien Farge, euronews: “What do you think about the rebellious approach that a lot of the cardinals are taking in the congregations? Is their influence significant in this unexpected papal election?”
Fabio Zavattaro: “I believe that the cardinals really want to know what they’re getting into. They want to find an agreement. They want to comprehend what major themes the pope and the Church will have to face once a successor to Benedict XVI is named. I think they are making a sincere effort to understand the problems they have to deal with. It’s only after these important inquiries have been answered that they’ll be able to indicate the best person for finding solutions.”
euronews: “The challenges for the Church are numerous: how can this Church go forward in today’s world?”
Zavattaro: “I believe that today what’s needed is a pope who combines the priest-like qualities of John Paul II and the intellect of Benedict XVI – a pope who knows how to mix with ordinary people, and also knows how to get a debate going and give a sense to values that have been pushed to the side. When Benedict wanted to invigorate this new idea of spreading the Gospels, it was because Old Europe has a gulf which must be bridged – a distance between where one is and where one wants to be. I believe your average church-goer will see things this way.”
euronews: “Benedict’s named new cardinals in November. None of them was Italian. But there was a Nigerian: John Onaiyekan. Today he is considered a potential candidate for pope. Is this a sign?”
Zavattaro: “Of course it’s a sign, the sign of a church that already wanted to open up to the world with Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. There’s an image I always remember here: when John XXIII invoked the ecumenical council, he opened up the Basilica, a Church still closed within its walls. Paul VI held the last mass of the council in St. Peter’s Square. It opened the Church to the world, and I believe it’s a good sign that there is an African cardinal in the pool from which the pope is to be chosen. Others include Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, and, as we know, things over there are tough for Christians. Benedict XVI wanted to shake the Church up.”
euronews: “Do you have a favourite?”
Zavattaro: “I have several favourites. There are cardinals from the centre of Europe. I could name Schoenborn and Erdo. There are cardinals from Latin America: Scherer or Norberto Rivera Carrera from Mexico City. I don’t really see the Italians in pole position, but Scola and Ravasi mustn’t be ruled out.”