Michael Severance, operations manager of Acton’s Rome office, is asking the question on everyone’s mind, “Who will be pope #266?” In The Catholic World Report, Severance makes note of the “amateur assessments” first:
By now we have heard every hypothesis from scores of budget-pinching and rookie mass media stumbling on Piazza San Pietro’s uneven cobblestones. They multitask as correspondent-producer-fixers and are armed with the latest generation of smartphones, tablets, and other species of espresso-stained electronic gadgets that replace expensive backroom media techs.
You wonder when they have time to actually research their cases, much less post and broadcast their news. But indeed time—moltissimo tempo—they have had.
They have spoken of the “Bergoglio comeback” (apparently he was a runner-up in 2005) and the mightily leveraged “Italian block” that will surely vote in one of their own to fill a 35-year power vacuum.
They have analyzed and lobbied for non-traditional but surely viable candidates from Latin America (Cardinal Scherer of Brazil), Africa (Cardinal Turkson of Ghana), and Asia (the “baby” 54-year-old Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines).
Severance, however, believes that there are more serious contenders. He interviewed several people with above-average insight into the conclave:
I spoke with Edward Pentin, the much sought-after vaticanista for several reputable media outlets, like the National Catholic Register, The Catholic Herald, Zenit, Vatican Radio and now the U.K.’s Sky News Television.
Never short on courage with words, I asked Pentin to take the first shot on who he foresees as the next pope.
“If pushed, I’d say Cardinal Scola has the best chances,” Pentin said. “He has a reasonably strong record of governance and, as an Italian distanced from the Vatican infighting, he’s in a better position than many to enact Curial reform. … Scola is believed to have given Benedict the idea for a New Evangelization, and some say he’s Benedict’s preferred successor.”
Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg also has some thoughts:
“There are a number of well-qualified papabili from Asia-Oceania. I am a great admirer of Cardinal Pell. He has taken a Church that had embraced some of progressivism’s most inane aspects and turned it around.”
Gregg said that the conservative archbishop of Sydney “has a truly international grasp of the life and direction of the universal Church” but also that this same is true for the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who he claims “should be taken very seriously.”
Among other things, Gregg says that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith understands better than some Western bishops just how important it is to continue focusing on the liturgy.
“But in the end, I don’t think geography really matters,” Gregg says. “Nor does the Church need to embrace its own version of the contemporary disease of identity-politics. We should worry far more about a person’s holiness than about whether he comes from this or that continent.”