The cardinals’ expectations before the conclave

Source: FSSPX News

Over the course of the ten General Congregations that gathered all the cardinals, electors and non-electors, before the start of the conclave, there were 161 interventions that allowed them to present the important questions that await the new pope and to sketch the profile of the cardinal who is best able to deal with those questions.  Thus, during these meetings, they studied “the work of the Curia and its improvement”, “the Church’s mission in the world and the need for a new evangelization”....  More particularly, on March 8, the 152 cardinals present had the opportunity to listen to the interventions of Cardinals Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Domenico Calcagno, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.   Such a review of the finances and administration of the Holy See is foreseen by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (1988) which stipulates that, when the Apostolic See is vacant, “it is the right and the duty of the cardinal camerlengo... to request reports from all the administrations dependent on the Holy See on their patrimonial and economic status as well as information on any extraordinary business that may at that time be under way” (171 §2).  The camerlengo must also request “from the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See... a financial statement on income and expenditures of the previous year and the budgetary estimates for the following year” and submit all these documents to the College of Cardinals.

During these General Congregations, according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Press Office, the discussion in particular dealt repeatedly with “the organization of the Holy See and the relations between the Curia and the particular Churches”.  As Jean-Marie Guénois wrote in Le Figaro on March 6, 2013:  “Many cardinals think that the hour has come to review the operations of the Curia from top to bottom.  They want a reform of the system:  a Secretary of State with fewer powers;  an effective Council of ministers surrounding the pope;  a Vatican designed as a place of service for the continental Churches and not as a place of power.  This makes the Italian old guard, which has in fact controlled everything for a long time, fear a crisis at the institutional level that would therefore be very serious.  After Paul VI, neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI really governed the Curia.  Therefore that makes more than thirty years’ worth of trends in the halls of power that are now imploding.”

It is important to mention that this eagerness to reform the Curia has its ambiguities.  Certainly some dysfunctions have been apparent in recent years, and one can only hope that the new pope will remedy them;  this is what some cardinals are legitimately demanding.  But others would like to see a structural reform decentralize the Curia and thus foster again the collegiality promoted by Vatican II.  Despite the various declarations on either side during the days of the pre-conclave congregations, this dangerous ambiguity has not been dispelled—far from it.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran asserted:  “I think first that it will be necessary to continue what Benedict XVI did, in other words, to teach the content of the faith.  In today’s world, Christians must be capable of giving a reason for their faith by having an understanding of the content of that faith, because you can’t hand on impressions.  It will also have to be a pope who is very open to dialogue with other cultures and religions.  Of course, I am thinking of interreligious dialogue, but also about the one with the other Christian Churches.  It will be necessary too for him to be able to carry out a reform of the Curia, in such a way that there is more coordination.”  To the question:  “Before his election, though, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to carry out that reform...”, the French prelate responded:  “Yes, but the Curia is a huge machine!  Maybe it will take a younger pope.”  “What age should he be, in your opinion?”  “The ideal age is more or less 65... even 70 if he is in good shape.”

On Seven Network (Australian television), Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia), declared on February 27 that the retired pope was a brilliant professor, but he regretted that “governing” had not been his strong suit.  “The next pope of course must be a good theologian, but I would prefer that it be someone who could really lead the Church and bring it together again,” Cardinal Pell explained, while deploring the fact that the resignation of the pope has created a precedent and further weakened the position of the Church, which in his opinion needs a “more effective leader”.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux (France), informed the Roman news agency I.Media on March 8 that the cardinals were hoping for a Supreme Pontiff who would be “capable of truly entering into the dynamic of the new evangelization”.  He will have to be “a man of faith” who “brings the Church forward”.  After John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he added, it is also important that he be a theologian.  For all that, after a “great teacher” like Benedict XVI, some say that the time has come for a “more pastoral” pope.  Finally, what is necessary also is “a man of government”, according to the French prelate, who reiterated the importance of a reflection about the relations between the local Churches and Rome.  Thus he declared that several cardinals had proved critical of certain dysfunctions in relations between the dioceses, on the one hand, and the Congregations and Pontifical Councils of the Holy See, on the other.  The cardinals are making “suggestions for better operations, for more coordination and openness”.  They would like to see less “compartmentalization” among the different dicasteries, for the sake of more harmonious collaboration.  Many are also saying that they would like “more collegiality”.

“It would be good if the pope could meet more often with the heads of these Congregations or Councils,” Cardinal Ricard opined, stressing “the need for a guideline that could be given to prevent a situation where everyone is doing his own work,” which of course is “serious but not coordinated with the others”.  (Sources:  VIS/Apic/Imedia/Figaro – DICI no. 272 dated March ##, 2013)

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