In today’s The Detroit News, the Rev. Robert Sirico seeks to set aside some of the rumors, skewered Hollywood depictions, and media predictions that swirl around any papal conclave. Of course, this time is decidedly different, as the cardinals are coming together not after the death of a pope, but one’s retirement.

There is much talk throughout all the Church as to whom the next pope will be, and as Fr. Sirico points out, “[n]o one, not even the most well-informed Cardinal or Vatican journalist, has a clear answer to that question. Anyone telling you otherwise is dreaming.” Given the unusual circumstances of this conclave, Sirico believes this will not be a quick process.

…there is no obvious front-runner, no single cardinal that universally stands out as an obvious successor.

What does all this mean for the days ahead? Time. Time for the sifting process to allow the cardinals to get to know one another in this new light; time to get to the bottom of the problems related to the spirituality and governance of the Roman Curia (the bureaucracy that is supposed to help formulate, administer and communicate the decisions of the pope), which, even before the “Vatileaks” exposure, was well-known for its rivalries and cronyism; and time for the actual election process itself, due to procedural changes introduced since the last conclave, now requiring a two-thirds vote of the cardinals to elect a pope for up to 33 ballots.


If we aren’t naming names yet, then what does Fr. Sirico predict for the conclave and the choice they face?

I suspect that the cardinals meeting in Rome will be looking to find one of their number sufficiently grounded in this view of existence, in this Tradition, who they believe will be confident and even winsome in communicating these ancient claims to an increasingly secular and skeptical world; a man who will have sufficient insight into the human condition to enable him to uncover the many competent and even saintly gems that exist within the Curia — along with the backbone to eliminate the others. I suspect they will look for a man of sufficient dedication, passion and charity who will emulate the flawed fisherman whose shoes he will fill.