Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Who will be the next Pope?

Over the past week, my non-Catholic relatives and some friends have been asking me that question and my reply has been this: "If I knew, I would place a bet at a book-makers and win a million pounds."

"Who will be John Paul II's successor"? This is the question on everyone's lips and like the elector Cardinals themselves we will have to await the Holy Spirit's decision. Christ himself tells us that the Spirit is unpredictable (cf John 3:8) and so all would-be predictors should beware. I believe that in the 1978 conclave that elected John Paul II, none of the predictions were accurate. Of course, there are names who are more prominent than others, Cardinals who are more suited to such a responsibility.

Reading the various profiles and commentaries supplied by the world's media, it struck me that the manner in which the Press reports the matter of the conclave is just inappropriate. The secular Press simply looks idiotic when it tries to describe the conclave and papal election in familiar but secular political terms. Phrases asserting that Arinze would be "unacceptable to North America and Europe" because of his 'conservative moral stance' or polls asking readers to contribute views on what "policies" the next Pope should pursue are futile and off the mark.

I accept that the Holy See and thus the Papacy has a political role and I am realistic enough (and have been involved enough in parish life) to state that politics plays some role in the Church and its leadership. Politics and politicking is inevitable at any level of human association, especially when power, control and influence is involved...

However, it has to be said that the role of the Pope is to steer the mission of the Church, to preach the Gospel of Christ and to unify those who are profess Christ as Saviour. The role he is given severely limits any sense of setting personal agendas or policies. His policies are those of Christ and his Church. In the same way, there should be no talk of any pope being unacceptable to any group of truly faithful Catholics because he preaches the teaching of Christ, whether that is labelled as 'conservative' or 'progressive'.

John Paul II has left us clear benchmarks in his Catechism, and I don't see how any future pope could deviate radically from the clear teaching found therein. Yes, a future pope could allow more discussion, could listen and dialogue more attentively, could be more pastoral and compassionate. A future Pope could broaden our theological horizons and help us to face the challenges of Christian living in the 21st century. In short, any future Pontiff could be called on to be even more Christ-like. But at the end of the day, a Christ-like pope will still preach Christ's message and this will always be 'unacceptable' or 'controversial' to those who simply cannot and will not even try to conform their lives to the Gospel and allow God's grace and Spirit to transform their lives.

May this same Spirit rest upon the 115 Cardinals who gather tomorrow to elect the new Vicar of Christ and Servant of the servants of God. Whoever he is, the new Pope will be called to serve God's people principally by serving Christ's Gospel of salvation. He has no powers or authority to refashion the Gospel, only to give new vision and impetus to the Church in her continuing mission of salvation to all men and women, in her preaching of the message and policy which essentially is that of Jesus Christ.


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