Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 18, 2005
Another pope from 'Galilee'?
Replacing Pope John Paul II, a towering figure in the history of the Church, will be impossible. And yet it must and will be done - likely this week, possibly before you receive this newspaper.
Perhaps the Church could have taken a six-month break to catch its breath and reflect. But life goes on and, after all, the pope is the pope and not the messiah. The Church itself is much, much more than the pope.
The next pope should be one who carries on the work of Pope John Paul, but who is, nevertheless, his own man. Or rather, he should be the Holy Spirit's man, embodied in his own personality with his own talents.
One can be fairly certain there will be a dramatic change in papal style - there almost always is with a new pope.
Here is where our myopic secular media lets us down. Trapped in its secular Western mindset and utterly unable to get inside the Catholic world view, the media tells us that the issues facing the new pope will be contraception, abortion, and whether to ordain women and married men.
Rather, the cardinals are more likely to discuss how the Church deals with militant Islam, confronts the collapse of religious practice in Europe, speaks effectively on poverty, consumerism, and war and other threats to life. Surely, they will ponder the proper balance of authority between the Vatican and local churches, an age-old question that has greater urgency with the rise of a global Church.
In discussing potential new popes, they ought to look for a man who ably projects faith, hope and love. Living out these theological virtues is central to the life of any layperson. In a materialistic culture, we are starved for living models of holiness. John Paul II provided one model, but now he is gone.
In the complex, work-driven Western world, we need models of simplicity and caring. Is there a budding St. Francis among the cardinals who, by his words and actions, can show us that we do not need to look to Eastern religions to find a way of life far gentler than that of our dog-eat-dog society?
Many methods are needed to implement Pope John Paul's new evangelization. The late pope toured extensively, wrote brilliantly and gave speeches daily - all of which was of enormous value. But nothing says the next pontiff needs to follow that style.
What he does need to be is a model of Jesus Christ.
After Pope John Paul's installation in 1978, the French journalist Andre Frossard wrote, "This isn't a pope from Poland; this is a pope from Galilee." In the 21st century, we need every pope to be "from Galilee." Indeed, Pope John Paul I, the smiling pope, during his brief pontificate gave us another glimpse of how a pope from Galilee might present himself.
Speculation has been rife about who might become the new pope. When the cardinals wisely decided to avoid commenting to the media in the week before the conclave so they could devote themselves fully to prayer and discussion, such speculation became a dead letter.
Secular media and best-selling authors would like us to believe that the conclave is a palace intrigue with cardinals conniving and deals brokered. If you don't believe in a God who is close to his people, the notion of cardinals listening intently to the voice of the Spirit can only be hogwash that needs to be countered with a more worldly myth.
Rather, the "myth" we ought to focus on comes from 1 Samuel 16 where the prophet Samuel anointed David the next king of Israel. Samuel thought he knew which of Jesse's sons should become king. But God told him, "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. . . . Man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart."
Our prayer at this time is that the Lord again look into the hearts of men and enable the cardinals to choose the right man for the papacy just as Samuel chose David to be king.
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