donderdag 28 juli 2011

The secret diary of the most recent conclave

This afternoon I took a room at Casa Santa Marta. Setting down my bags, I tried to open the shades, as the room was dark, but it was impossible. One of my brothers had the same problem, and asked for help from the sisters in charge. He thought it was a technical problem. The sisters explained that the blinds had been sealed shut. Seclusion of the Conclave….A new experience for nearly all of us: out of 115 cardinals, only two had previously participated in the election of a pope....

With these words begin the “secret diary” of the conclave that led to the election of Benedict XVI on 19 April 2005 - the confidential, hand-written notes of an anonymous cardinal upon returning to his room after voting in the Sistine Chapel. This remarkable document, published in the journal Limes, allows a step-by-step reconstruction of the balloting process, raising the veil of secrecy that, by the will of the Popes, has always covered the conclave. From the cardinal’s notes obtained by the journal, we learn first of all that Ratzinger’s candidacy was extremely strong from the beginning.

The seventy-eight year old Bavarian cardinal was the only candidate who could count on the dedicated support of a well-organized group, disproving speculation that Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, contemporary of the new Pope and ex-archbishop of Milan, played a crucial role in the election of Benedict XVI. And consequently, the notes confirm the story published in the Milan daily newspaper Il Giornale the day after the conclave: the only real rival to Ratzinger who could count on a consistent number of votes - up to 40 - was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

But let’s go by degrees and reconstruct, step-by-step, the timeline of events that took place in the secrecy of the Sistine Chapel in the twenty-four hours starting the afternoon of Monday, 18 April 2005. At eighteen hundred hours, after the 115 cardinals entered the chapel, had been sworn and heard a meditation by the octogenarian Spidlik, the first round of voting begins. The ballots, rectangular and made to be folded in two, are distributed. On the upper half is written Eligo in Summo Pontificem (“I elect as Supreme Pontiff”); on the lower half, a space to write the chosen name.

Each cardinal approaches the metal ballot box, emits a solemn utterance and deposits his ballot. Everything is finished a few minutes after nineteen hundred hours. The negative result of the vote is a given, but the results are surprising. Ratzinger receives forty-seven votes, Bergoglio – and this is the real surprise of the conclave - receives ten. Nine votes go to Martini, six to Camillio Ruini, Vicar General to the Pope and President of the CEI. Four go to Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, three to the cardinal from Honduras, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, and two to Dionigi Tettamanzi, Martini’s successor in Milan. There are then over thirty votes dispersed among all the cardinals in the conclave, individual votes that do not carry any weight – accordingly, the cardinal-author of the ‘“secret diary” did not note them in his memoir. The smoke is unequivocally black.

After this first vote, the position of the “progressive” wing of the conclave was greatly diminished. They had decided to vote for Martini, a “test candidate,” for the sole purpose of checking to see how many votes he could get. The cardinals left the Sistine Chapel and went to eat. Ratzinger supporters had had a good start, but the Bergoglio surprise hit many electors hard. The archbishop of Buenos Aires is a shy person who avoids TV cameras and does not give interviews. He left the Archbishop’s Palace to live simply and humbly in a small apartment, his character reminiscent in some ways of Pope Luciani. After dinner, they hold small meetings to decide what to do, and above all to convince the undecided. «Small groups, two-three people, there are no big meetings. As in all the hotels, a ban on smoking has been added to the thousand already-existing prohibitions. The Portuguese Cardinal Jose Policarpo da Crux, a famously inveterate smoker, cannot resist and goes outside to light up a good cigar».

The next morning, Tuesday, 19 April, at nine, the 115 cardinals return to Michelangelo’s frescoed Chapel, and under the severe gaze of the figures of the Universal Judgment, pick up their ballots once again. The result of the second vote shows a significant diminution of votes for individual candidates. Ratzinger’s tally climbs to sixty-five (he needs twelve more votes to reach the two-thirds majority needed for election in the first two weeks of conclave) and Bergoglio’s share climbs considerably to thirty-five. Ruini loses all his votes, which go to Ratzinger and not Martini, whose supporters voted for Bergoglio. Only Sodano hangs onto his four votes, and Tettamanzi to his two.

(Source: Andrea Tornielli, La Stampa, Vatican Insider)

woensdag 13 juli 2011

The church's cardinals were scholars, pastors, saints, sinners


The College of Cardinals is the oldest and most exclusive men’s club in the world, and Michael Walsh provides an interesting and entertaining account of some of its remarkable members. Many books have been written on the college, but Walsh focuses on the lives of cardinals who never became popes. This approach allows him to avoid expending precious pages on people whose lives have been extensively described in other books. Instead Walsh introduces us to men who played important but varied roles in the history of the church.

Rather than simply telling their stories in chronological order, Walsh organizes the cardinals by types -- a creative approach that allows him to emphasize themes rather than just recount events from ancient times to the present. But first, Walsh gives the reader a 20-page introduction to the history of the college -- its origins and development as a church institution. Although a treasure for Vatican connoisseurs and specialists, this scholarly chapter with 54 footnotes would have been better placed as an appendix at the back of the book where it would not have scared off average readers simply interested in some good stories.

The introduction gives a quick account of papal elections prior to the institution of the College of Cardinals and then details the development of the college’s role in the election of popes around the beginning of the second millennium. It is a useful and detailed history of the college for those unfamiliar with this development. Those wanting even more detail can peruse the collection of documents available at Salvador Miranda’s Web site at

But what most readers will enjoy in this book are the stories about cardinals that follow the introduction. Walsh groups his cardinals by categories that show how varied they are while still following certain patterns.

The cardinal categories used by Walsh are: “The Precursors” (at the beginning of the second millennium), “The Nearly Men” (who almost became popes), “The Dynasts,” “The Scholar Cardinals,” “The Saints” (very few), “The Pastors,” “Men of War,” “The Politicos,” “Secretaries of State,” “The Exes” (those who resigned), and “Family Men.”

In “The Nearly Men,” we meet those cardinals who were almost popes, including some antipopes. Although talented and well-connected, these men were ultimately the losers in the ecclesiastical game of politics. Included here are Baldassare Cossa (the antipope John XXIII) and the English cardinal Reginald Pole, who failed to get the requisite two-thirds majority because of French opposition.

While Showtime may focus on the Borgia family, in “The Dynasts” Walsh follows the ups and downs of the Colonna family, which had 18 cardinals between 1206 and 1766, although only one of them ever became pope. Their battles with the Orsinis are the stuff of papal history.

“The Scholars,” on the other hand, used their brains rather than family connections to advance in the church. Interestingly, most were not theologians but lawyers. As in civil society, legal training is a good entrée into politics. Nor are there many saints among the cardinals -- in fact the sinners make the more interesting reading. One of the most famous sinners would be Cesare Borgia, whom Walsh treats under “Exes,” since he resigned the cardinalate to marry.

Although the organization of the book by types of cardinals is a help to the reader, Walsh would be the first to acknowledge that some cardinals do not fit easily into one box. Roberto Bellarmino could easily go under either the saints or the scholars. Pietro Gasparri, a secretary of state, was also an accomplished scholar of canon law.

Any book covering a millennium of history is bound to have a few errors that historians will pick at. I noticed, for example, that Walsh has Joseph Bernardin elected general secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference, when in fact he was appointed by Cardinal John Dearden. But for anyone wanting a sweeping overview of this most colorful and exclusive men’s club, Walsh’s book is the place to start.

(Source: Thomas J. Reese s.j. (National Catholic Reporter)

maandag 4 juli 2011

Angelo Scola, le successeur dont rêve le pape

Dans l'ordre normal des choses, les vaticanistes fourbissent leurs listes de papabili lorsque le pape a éternué à la messe ou qu'il a glissé dans sa baignoire... Par une superbe ironie, c'est un Benoît XVI en pleine forme qui a appuyé sur la gachette des spéculations à propos du prochain conclave. Son coup ? Une nomination très symbolique. Depuis deux ans que le cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi avait dépassé la limite d'âge sur le siège de de Milan, on se demandait qui serait choisi pour lui succéder.

Milan est d'autant plus emblématique que deux de ses archevêques sont devenus papes au XXe siècle: Paul VI et Pie XI. Le suspense a pris fin le 28 juin, lorsque Benoît XVI a nommé le cardinal Angelo Scola. En tant que patriarche de Venise, il était déjà sur un trône qui a porté trois papes contemporains (Pie X, Jean XXIII, Jean-Paul Ier). Si Benoit XVI a voulu le transférer à Milan, c'est pour enfoncer le clou de sa "papabilité".

Loi de continuité depuis Jean XXIII
Angelo Scola, qui aura 70 ans en novembre, était déjà un sérieux papabile en 2005. Il l'est plus que jamais : la loi de continuité que l'on observe depuis Jean XXIII, selon laquelle un pape est choisi en raison de sa proximité avec son prédécesseur, jouerait à plein. Celle du prélat italien avec le pontife bavarois est évidente. Très jeune, Scola a fait partie du vivier intellectuel de la revue Communio, étant lié avec les théologiens Henri de Lubac et Hans Urs von Balthasar. Exactement comme Ratzinger. Celui-ci apprécie aussi les hommes qui, comme lui, ont souffert pour leurs idées. Parce qu'il était membre du mouvement italien Communion et Libération, Scola, originaire de la capitale lombarde, a été renvoyé du séminaire milanais par l'archevêque de l'époque, qui se défiait des apôtres de Don Giussani. En le réinstallant au bercail, Benoît XVI offre à son ami une sainte revanche.

Issu, comme Ratzinger, d'un milieu très simple, Scola a mené une brillante carrière théologique qui l'a mené de l'université de Fribourg à celle du Latran, dont il devient recteur en 1995 après une expérience d'évêque de terrain, en Toscane.

Un Italien pour réformer la curie ?
L'homme peut aussi bien être classé à "droite" sur les questions de famille et de bioéthique, qu'à "gauche" en raison de sa passion pour la doctrine sociale de l’Église et la défense des pauvres. Visionnaire, il a créé une revue de réflexion islamo-chrétienne, Oasis. Scola prône une loyale et sportive compétition spirituelle entre christianisme et islam, à mille lieues de la logique de l'affrontement communautariste ou de l'islamophobie de certains lobbies catholiques, et plaide pour une société métissée.

Sur la liste des papabili, Angelo Scola n'est pourtant pas le seul "ratzingerien d'ouverture" susceptible de monter sur le trône de Pierre. Il faut ici mentionner Mauro Piacenza, 66 ans, l'actuel préfet de la congrégation pour le clergé. Et surtout le Canadien Marc Ouellet, 67 ans, l'ex-archevêque de Québec devenu préfet de la congrégation pour les évêques.

L'urgence d'une modernisation des méthodes de travail du Vatican ferait pencher pour une solution italienne en cas de conclave. Seul un Italien serait en effet en mesure de réformer la curie, paralysée par les arcanes de la culture méditerranéenne. Une montagne que deux valeureux ouvriers, polonais et allemand, ont renoncé à déplacer.

vrijdag 1 juli 2011

Conclave conjecture: Milan appointment triggers 'papabile' speculation

VATICAN CITY (Catholic News Service) The most amusing headline to greet Cardinal Angelo Scola's appointment as archbishop of Milan appeared in a British newspaper: "Pro-Vatican cardinal to head Milan church."

One can pretty well assume that all of the candidates considered for this office would describe themselves as "pro-Vatican." The Italian hierarchy is not full of papal critics or ecclesiastical rebels.

What does distinguish Cardinal Scola is that he is very much in line with the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI. Like the pope, he is a respected theologian who sees a crisis of values in modern society and believes the church must mobilize its resources in resisting this slide.

Both men also view education -- and more specifically, Christian formation -- as a top priority if the church's members are to successfully challenge the secular drift of contemporary culture. For several years in the 1980s and '90s, he was a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The appointment June 28 prompted immediate speculation in the English-language press about Cardinal Scola's "papabile" rating. In fact, many reporters presumed this made the 69-year-old cardinal the leading Italian candidate in a future conclave.

But that he slipped so easily into the front-runner status may say something else: Right now, there is little if any consensus, in Italy or elsewhere, about who the strongest papal candidate would be.

There are several reasons for that. For one thing, Pope Benedict, at 84, shows no signs of ill health, so his possible successor is not something cardinals are worrying about. In addition, the world's cardinals have come together infrequently in recent years; as one cardinal said during the last consistory in 2010, "We really don't know each other very well."

Several cardinals who participated in the previous conclave in 2005 said that serious thought about candidates really takes shape in the daily group meetings of cardinals, called general congregations, that occur after a pope's death.

So although journalists who parachute into Rome tend to speculate about "papabili," most people in Rome and at the Vatican do not have papal tote boards going.

One reason Cardinal Scola's name will automatically figure on lists of papal contenders is that, twice in the last century, archbishops from Milan have been elected pope: Popes Pius XI in 1922 and Paul VI in 1963. Milan remains the country's most important diocese, with nearly 5 million Catholics. And even after two non-Italian popes in a row, many Vatican-watchers still believe the College of Cardinals will look first to the field of Italians when the time comes.

Two other Italian cardinals are often mentioned as potential candidates. One is Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 68, a biblical scholar and the current head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who, in fact, demonstrates a huge breadth of culture in his frequent encounters with the press.

Cardinal Ravasi, however, has no experience as a diocesan bishop. His name was rumored to have been considered for Milan, which would have raised his profile considerably.

The other Italian, 67-year-old Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, is also an Argentine, making him, to some observers, the ideal Euro-Latin American hybrid candidate. Born in Argentina to parents of Italian descent, he heads the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches and has served extensively in the Vatican diplomatic corps. But he, too, lacks pastoral experience as the head of a diocese.

Vatican officials tend to dominate pre-conclave speculation because they're more visible on the ecclesiastical landscape, to the press and to the world's cardinals. Many sources said the election of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005 was due in part to the fact that most cardinals had met with him several times when he headed the doctrinal congregation, during "ad limina" or other visits to Rome.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 67, who was described by some as a "dark horse" candidate in 2005, is another Vatican official occasionally mentioned in talk of a future conclave. The former archbishop of Quebec, he now heads the Congregation for Bishops.

One established contender is Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 68, who has headed the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa since 1993. Considered a leading Latin American candidate in 2005, he has been an energetic pastor at home and an influential voice on social issues in the international arena.

Vatican sources, however, have sometimes tipped another Latin American, 67-year-old Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne, as a future candidate for the papacy. A member of Opus Dei, he is a former basketball star and obtained an engineering degree before becoming a priest. As archbishop of Lima, one of Latin America's biggest dioceses, he has amplified the church's voice in political affairs.

Most cardinals on "papabile" lists are in their late 60s, reflecting their high visibility in the prime of their careers. But serious conclave-watchers should also look at a different age group, those in their late 70s. These are cardinals who have been around longer and therefore become better known to their confreres -- just as Cardinal Ratzinger was when he was elected at the age of 78.

There is also a bigger pool of older cardinals to choose from. At present, almost half of the voting-age cardinals are between the ages of 75 and 80. Among them are several names from old "papabile" lists: Cardinals Francis Arinze (Nigeria), Jose Saraiva Martins (Portugal), Claudio Hummes (Brazil) and Dionigi Tettamanzi (who just retired from Milan).