03/04/2013, 00.00
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Conclave: choice based on challenges, rather than candidates

by Franco Pisano
The fundamental question that the 115 cardinals convoked to conclave must face in a few days is: what are the issues that the Church of Benedict XVI's successor must face, and how. The answer to this question leads to the second question: Who is the most suitable for the task?

Rome (AsiaNews) - Progressive or conservative, Italian or foreign, maybe black, led by Bertone's "group" or the Americans. In Vatican watcher's jargon it is called "totopapa" (papal stakes) and aims to find out who will be the successor of Benedict XVI. In the hunt for the next Pope - which even sees British bookmakers involved - there is, in general, a reversal of perspective: first the candidate is indicated followed by speculation on the issues that need to be addresses. Not so. The fundamental question that the 115 cardinals convoked to conclave must face is: what are the issues that the Church of Benedict XVI's successor must face, and how. The answer to this question leads to the second question: Who is the most suitable to face this task?

When, April 19, 2005, the choice fell on Cardinal Ratzinger, the conclave cardinals thought to turn its gaze on the Old Continent, as cause, victim and the center of dechristianization, seen as the primary and fundamental problem. Significantly, during the Mass "Pro eligendo romano pontifice", celebrated on April 18, the then dean of the College of Cardinals, who was the same Card. Ratzinger, spoke about the need to rediscover a "mature faith, rooted in friendship with Christ", without getting carried away by the "dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and leaves only the self and one's own desires as the ultimate criterion." Themes that were at  the heart of Benedict XVI's teaching and, of course, were, at least at the time, shared by the majority of electors.

And now? From increasingly secularized Europe, however, some positive signs have emerged. More from the people than institutions, as demonstrated by the massive and unexpected participation of the French in the march on January 13 in defense of marriage between a man and a woman. Other "signs of hope" can be glimpsed here and there. If the new evangelization is the problem of problems, is the Old Continent still central?

Today, in fact, the majority of Catholics no live longer in Europe. The Catholic of our time is black or of mixed race.

Not only that,  most faithful of the Church of Rome, today, live in the Americas. But if the problems of the United States and Canada, in many ways can be compared to those in Europe, albeit with some greater radicalism, the Churches of Latin America on the one hand suffer the repercussions of materialism, while on the other each year hemorrhage tens of thousands of people most often to sects if not to Churches of Protestant origin. But they are, in general, lively Churches, attentive to the problems of "real" people. How can we continue to ignore them?

Again: "The third millennium will be Asian," John Paul II said in New Delhi in 1999, presenting the conclusions of the Synod for Asia. And in 2004 in his "Rise, let us be on our way" he repeated "Asia: here is our common task for the third millennium." Churches are growing in number of faithful and are rich in vocations - they have recorded the highest increase in the number of priests worldwide - despite often being opposed, if not persecuted, in a more or less obvious manner. Church which, with the exception of the Philippines and East Timor, live in a minority context. Mission and religious freedom are their flags. What will the Conclave think?

Africa, finally. It is the continent where there is the biggest percentage increase of Catholics and their vocations are second only to those in Asia. The African Churches are "young". This is both an advantage and a limitation.

These are, in broad terms, the reality of the Churches in the different continents. Giving priority to one over another does not necessarily choosing a man of that continent. As Cardinal Walter Kasper has said, what is needed  is "a true shepherd for the people, but also a pastor who can lead the Church. Today I believe experience of the universal Church is needed. It's not enough just to know a diocese or a country".  In this regard, an overriding feature of our time cannot be ignored: globalization. As previously stated by Benedict XVI, it is both a positive fact, capable of disseminating principles such as respect for human rights, and negative because it also helps in the spread of the gospel of consumerism: What's important is to have "things."

Then, finally, there are issues internal to the life of the Church - for all the liturgy - and the great moral issues, for all the divorced and remarried. And there is a demand - quite pressing - for a true reform of the Curia. Led by "non-Italians". Vatileaks, crows, issues related to the management of the IOR are indeed seen as "Italian" quarrels, the result of the excessive weight of the Roman Curia and a bureaucracy that has lost sight of its true purpose, which is to work - and do not inhibit, in an attempt to overlap - the mission of the head of the Church. Reforms have been attempted since the time of Pope Paul VI - who also knew every sphere - onwards. With results that have left a lot to be desired.

On top of all of this, the resignation of Benedict XVI, explained by his declining strength,  introduces an element linked to age. The 265th successor of St. Peter should not be too old, to ensure the necessary energy to govern the Church over the next, difficult years.

On the whole, there is no easy solution to the question, for now. The Conclave's task is to find it. On which - but only on this point - will weigh the personality of those who appear best suited to meet the requirements considered a priority. The personal profile, charisma, and past history and, why deny it, friends, will bear weight. Not to mention that for those who believe, "the Spirit blows where it wills."

 

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