The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Church turns attention toward next leader

Justin Tardiff | Monday, April 4, 2005

Pope John Paul II’s death on Saturday marked the end of his 27-year term as leader of the Catholic Church. The responsibility of choosing a new pope lies in the hands of the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals, who have 20 days following the death of the pope to call a meeting of cardinals to the Vatican.

At this time, nothing is known beyond speculation about who the next pope will be, said theology professor Lawrence Cunningham.

“There’s a pretty formal process. They do a good job at keeping it secret,” said Vincent Rougeau, associate professor in the Law School. “They are, however, supposed to be thinking about the good of the Church.”

Catholics around the world have responded to the death of the pope and are anticipating the appointment of a new leader.

“The thing I’m amazed at is the tremendous outpouring of people in prayer and support and mourning for his death and also a tribute to his memory,” said Jay Dolan, professor emeritus of history. “He obviously had a major impact on the entire world.”

Following the death of a pope, a period of mourning begins and runs for nine days. The mourning period began Sunday morning, Cunningham said.

Though the conclave of cardinals must be called no more than 20 days after the pope’s death, the cardinals already in Rome must wait 15 days for those who are absent to travel to the Vatican, Cunningham said.

Once the cardinals are at the Vatican, they may not communicate with anyone outside the area until a new pope is chosen.

Cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote. Though there are over 150 cardinals, only 117 cardinals are eligible to vote. They will meet in the Sistine Chapel each day until they reach a 2/3 vote, Cunningham said.

According to CNN.com, the blank ballots are rectangular in shape and must bear, in the upper half, the world “Eligo in Sum-mum Pontificem,” meaning “I elect as supreme pontiff.” The cardinals write the name of a candidate on the lower half and fold it in two. The elector then walks to an altar in order of seniority and places the ballot onto a small disc and drops it inside a chalice.

If there is no winner, another vote is taken, Cunningham said.

“If after 30 ballots they don’t have a 2/3 vote, they can agree that the simple majority would do to elect a new pope,” Cunningham said.

The ballots are burned after votes are counted. If black smoke emerges from the roof of the Vatican Palace, those in waiting in St. Peter’s Square know that a pope has not been selected. According to CNN.com, a chemical is mixed with the ballots to produce the black smoke. When a new pope is chosen, the ballots are burned alone without chemicals, and white smoke emerges from the Palace.

“No one knows who it is going to be,” Cunningham said.

Professors Dolan, Rougeau and Cunningham all cited an old Italian saying when asked for predictions about the future pope – “Whoever goes into the conclave comes out a cardinal.”

“The person who is favored to be pope never becomes it,” Dolan said.

Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, Cunningham said. The cornerstone of his papacy was global outreach and it is because of his great interest in the world that some are speculating that the next pope may be from a Third World country, another non-Italian or possibly a non-European.

“There’s been some speculation Central and Latin American cardinals and also some from Europe of course,” Cunningham said.

“It would be good to have someone from say Africa, which has the fastest growing Catholic population, or Latin America,” Cunningham said. “I think it would be a terrific thing for the Church – after all the Church is a Catholic church.”

One figure that has been brought up as a possible candidate is Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. Notre Dame is presenting him an honorary doctorate at the University’s Commencement ceremony in May, Cunningham said.

“If [Arinze is elected pope] he obviously will not be at the commencement,” Cunn-ingham said.

Arinze, 72, has been a key figure in arranging interfaith dialogue among Cath-olics, Muslims and Hindus. Arinze was close to John Paul II, according to CNN. If elected pope, he would be the first black pope since Gelasius in 492.

However, Father Richard McBrien, theology professor at Notre Dame, told the Boston Herald that it is unlikely a black pope will be elected.

“We’re not going to have a black pope. …The church won’t make two bold moves in a row,” he said.

CNN listed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul II’s chief theological adviser; Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, Italy; Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Mumbai; Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Mechlen-Brussels, Belgium and others as potential candidates.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Begoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was also listed as a candidate. If elected, Begoglio would become the first Jesuit pope.

The process of choosing a new pope is not easy, as there are many factors to be considered.

“Do you try to replicate [John Paul II], or do you bring someone in who will focus more on managing the Church as an institution?” said R. Scott Appleby, history professor and director of the Kroc Institute for Inter-national Peace Stud-ies. “The new pope will have to deal with three issues: the poor in the world, the world of Islam [and] advances in science and biotechnology.”

Under Pope John Paul II, the “Church moved to the right and got very conservative,” Dolan said.

Many agree that the cardinals may choose someone more moderate in their views.

Dolan compared Pope John Paul II to Pope John XXIII, who introduced Vatican II and called the Second Vatican Council, to describe his conservatism.

“He [Pope John XXIII] wanted to let the windows of the church and let some air in,” Dolan said. “I think John Paul II closed those windows.”