We’re approaching the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico joined host Warren Pierce on The Warren Pierce Show on WJR Radio in Detroit Sunday Morning to discuss the style, substance, and impact of Pope Francis on the Vatican as he continues to lead the church. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
Last week was a busy news week for the Vatican: the release of Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, and the announcement that two former popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, will be canonized. Almost overshadowed is the story of another remarkable leader, Cardinal Văn Thuận and the cause for his beatification. (Beatification is the first step in declaring a person a saint, and allows for public veneration.)
Cardinal Văn Thuận spent 13 years in prison as a political prisoner in Vietnam, shortly after being named coadjutor archbishop of Saigon. The North Vietnamese army invaded Saigon, and the archbishop was sent to a “re-education camp”, where he endured 9 years of solitary confinement. It would seem to be a situation where one would lose hope. (more…)
Surprise was the reaction in Rome on hearing of the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Papacy. My colleagues in Rome told me that the Plaza was unusually quiet as the people tried to figure out what was going on. I guess the Cardinals showed that they elect the pope on their own terms, and now everyone is wondering who Pope Francis is, how he will lead, and what will characterize his pontificate.
Intra and Extra: Challenges for the Pope in the Church and the World
The Pope’s main role is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his first homily as Holy Father he asserted just this. “We can walk as much as we want,” he said “we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.” He also has a Church to govern—and he’ll face serious challenges on both fronts. On the inside, the Church continues to reel from scandals and abuse. The curia needs to be reformed and the bureaucracy cleaned up. On the outside, Pope Francis faces a growing and hostile secularism, religious persecution from a number of fronts, dwindling number of believers in traditionally Catholic lands, including Latin America, and increasing ignorance of the basic tenets of Christianity. But there are also some real positives. The Church continues to grow in the Global South—especially in Africa and Asia. Belief is still high in Latin America, though many Catholics are leaving for the Pentecostals or evangelicals. Among U.S. Catholics, Hispanics are now the majority. And while the Church in the West may be getting smaller, it is also more vibrant and serious. Younger Catholics are orthodox and evangelical, and dissenters like Hans Kung are aging and less influential each day. Pope Francis also has the advantage of following Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose interpretation of Vatican II and whose intellectual and spiritual guidance set out a framework for the New Evangelization.
Francis brings several important things to his papacy. The most obvious are that he is a Latin American, and not a member of the Roman Curia. The Curia needs reform, and being an outsider with experience of diocesan dysfunction will serve him well. Further, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he not only dealt with extreme poverty, corruption, lack of rule of law, and social and economic volatility that is common in the developing world, he also has had to contend with virulent and aggressive secularism that is common in the West. He has been a fearless defender of human life and family, has called abortion the “death penalty for the unborn,” and has been unafraid to clash with political leaders over corruption, reminding them that social corruption is rooted in personal sin.
He also brings a long record of engagement with the poorest of the poor. (more…)
The conclave to elect a new pope began today in Rome. Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti from the Financial Times describe the first day:
Cardinals sequestered in the Sistine chapel held their first vote to choose the 266th pope to lead the Roman Catholic church but black smoke emerging from their burnt ballot papers on Tuesday night signalled no one had secured the two-thirds majority needed for election.
The search for a successor to Benedict XVI, who last month became the first pontiff to abdicate in nearly 600 years, will continue on Wednesday with up to four rounds of voting.
In a ceremony combining pageantry and religious solemnity adapted over the centuries, the 115 voting cardinals took their oaths of secrecy in Latin after chanting their way into Michelangelo’s frescoed chapel, windows obscured and swept for electronic devices. Its doors were then closed and locked, and the princes of the church will remain cut off from the world, spending their nights in a nearby Vatican residence, until a winner emerges.
Regarding the color of the smoke, Rev. Robert Sirico points out that,
… white smoke signifying an elected pope would have been highly unlikely on the first day. Cardinals would next analyse which candidates have emerged with a following.
[Sirico] hazarded that Italy’s Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet of Canada might have obtained around 40 votes each. Cardinals Odilo Scherer of Brazil and Sean O’Malley of Boston might have taken “a smaller amount.”
The full article is available here, but registration may be required to access it.
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: (more…)
The conclave to elect the new pope is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon after the public Missa pro Eligendo Pontifice (Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff) which is scheduled at 10am Rome time. It was at this mass in 2005 after the death of John Paul II that the then Cardinal Ratizinger famously spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism.” At 4:30 pm Rome time, the cardinals wearing full choir dress will enter the Sistine Chapel singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit). Cardinals will enter into conclave (from the Latin cum clave, meaning “with key”) and they will be locked away from the world with no access to television, newspapers, or mobile phones until they have elected the new pope.
As the Conclave gets underway and the world waits to see who will be the next pope, here are some helpful hints for making your way through the media storm that is already underway.
1. The papal election is not a U.S.- or European-style political event.
In our hyper politicized world where almost everything is reduced to politics it is hard for our imagination to process a public event like the election of a new pope outside of the structures of politics. That’s not to say there’s no politics in the Church. There’s too much of it. Way too much. And it’s always a factor. Nevertheless trying to understand the papal election if the light of the American political system or interest and lobbying groups will not be of much help. (more…)
Update: Video Interview with Kishore from Rome.
As the world awaits the beginning of the conclave, many are looking at non European Cardinals as potentials for the next pope. Channel News Asia points out that “68 per cent of the world’s Catholics currently from Latin America, Africa and Asia, there are increased calls for the next pope to be a non-European.”
They asked Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome Office, to offer his thoughts on non Europeans with potential to take over the papacy, specifically Cardinal Malcom Ranjith:
As a cardinal he’s very experienced, he’s been in two Vatican offices, very important ones. One for missionary activity and one for liturgical worship. He’s also been a Nuncio in Asia, in Indonesia and in Timor Leste. He’s done a very good job of managing the conflicts in Sri Lanka.
Read the entire article here.
On the website of Crisis Magazine, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the “tsunami of unsolicited advice from pop atheists, incoherent playwrights, angry ex-priests, and celebrity theologians that has erupted since Benedict XVI’s abdication.” Then there’s Hans Küng’s article in the New York Times:
Much of Küng’s article involves his familiar tactics of citing dubious polls (as if polls somehow determine Christ’s will for His Church) about Catholics’ views of the usual subjects as well as propagating myths about Church history. Then there is his mockery of the evident love for Benedict and his saintly predecessor by young church-going Catholics. According to the good professor, we shouldn’t pay too much attention to “the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups.” Plainly it’s been a very, very long time since young Catholics have applauded Father Küng—assuming, that is, they even know who he is. As one such person recently remarked to me: “Hans Küng? I thought he was dead.”Writing in his Carnets du Concile during the Second Vatican Council, the Jesuit theologian and council peritus Henri de Lubac—who was no reactionary—described Küng as possessing a “juvenile audacity” and habitually speaking in “incendiary, superficial, and polemical” terms. Nothing, it seems, has changed. But amidst his litany of half-truths, Küng is right about one thing. There is something dying in global Catholicism. It’s just not what he thinks it is.
Read “Catholicism, True Reform and the Next Pope” by Samuel Gregg at Crisis Magazine.
On April 19, 2005, Joseph Ratzinger was elected to become the next Pope after John Paul II. Several Acton Institute analysts wrote articles looking ahead to what kind of papacy the world could expect from Benedict XVI. Take a look and let us know how we did. (We’ve added links where they are still available).
Alejandro Chafuen, a member of the Acton Institute’s board of directors, wrote a piece on April 20, 2005, titled, “Benedict XVI: A defender of personal freedom” for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He said:
Benedict XVI argues that freedom, coupled with consciousness and love, comprise the essence of being. With freedom comes an incalculability – and thus the world can never be reduced to mathematical logic. In his view, where the particular is more important than the universal, “the person, the unique and unrepeatable, is at the same time the ultimate and highest thing. In such view of the world, the person is not just an individual; a reproduction arising from the diffusion of the idea into matter, but rather, precisely, a “person.”
According to Benedict XVI, the Greeks saw human beings as mere individuals, subject to the polis (citystate). Christianity, however, sees man as a person more than an individual. This passage from individual to the person is what led the change from antiquity to Christianity. Or, as the cardinal put it, “from Plato to faith.”
As a Roman Catholic, I and many others are already deeply grateful to Ratzinger and his teachings on creative freedom, that characteristic mark of the “infinity-related” human person. We can be sure that the newest pope will continue the legacyof John Paul II, placing freedom and dignity at the core of his teachings.
Kevin Schmiesing, a research fellow for the Acton Institute, wrote “New pope starts debate on direction of Catholic Church” for the Detroit News on April 20, 2005. He said:
…Benedict, like John Paul, is no reactionary. He is a champion of Vatican II, in the same way that his predecessor was — that is, of the true spirit of Vatican II, which engages the modern world with the perennial truths of the Gospel, rather than capitulating to modern trends and thereby emptying the faith of the bracing vision of human dignity and salvation that it has to offer. (more…)