There is no indication that the Pope is about to step down, but that doesn't stop the speculation
about his successor. In Rome, Gerard Noel picks up some insights as to who the next man may be DURING MY recent visit to Rome I was lucky enough to meet several good friends all of whom, in different ways, are very well informed about Vatican affairs. 1 gained, among much else, some valuable insights into who might be the next pope.
To begin with, expectations that the present Pope might retire in the near future — or ever — are scornfully discounted. Recent speculation by Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop of Malines, that he might are not only dismissed out of hand, but are considered to make his own elimination certain.
About 20 to 30 new cardinals will be created at the next consistory in January or February and it is thought that the College of Cardinals as a whole will be depleted by something approaching that number by the end of next year.
The chances of the outstandingly brilliant Cardinal Martini, long considered favourite, are fading. It is confidently hoped that the present Holy Father will survive at least until the silver jubilee of his election, namely in 2003. The Archbishop of Milan will then be too old at 76.
The names most often mentioned are: Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, probably too young at 55; Cardinal Carrera Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico; and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa. (It is unfortunate that the latter's name, in colloquial Italian, means "bull's balls".)
The late Peter Hebblethwaite gave an interesting analysis of this whole question in his book The Next Pope. It was brought up to date by his gifted widow shortly after his sadly premature death and was published earlier this year.
All the most likely candidates are shrewdly described in the book with the notable exception of Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, for many years in charge of the First Section (General Affairs) at the Secretariat of State. It is ironically typical that in his last book. Peter, who knew more about Church affairs than most other people, should have given an expert survey of the subject while omitting its most important aspect. since he is now considered a fairly hot favourite.
He may, of course, have not mentioned Re because, at the time he was working on the book, Re was not officially a cardinal. What Peter, along with many people, may not have known was that Re was in fact already a cardinal. He had been so created secretly ("in petto") by His Holiness in 1998. Even then he was being groomed for stardom and he will officially receive the hat at the coming consistory.
The game of spotting the next Pope is the hazardous but exciting preoccupation of many, couple with an obsessive interest in signs, portends and prophesies, such, particularly, as the prophesies of St Malachy. These were attributed to the 14th century Archbishop of Armagh and purported to foretell, by means of a series of Latin mottoes, each pope to the end of time.
A recent book called The Last Pope, entertainingly and with much rather tortuous erudition and reasoning sets out the prophesies and ventures to apply them to the future. No one these days puts any credence in them, but they make for compulsive reading of a sort of sci-fi variety.
It is not difficult when looking back, to make each motto fit the next Pope after he had actually been elected. But it is not so easy when looking ahead.
According to the famous prophesies, there will only be two more popes, the second of whom (the last of all) will be called Peter. The
intervening nominee — the next pope — is described by the motto Gloria Olivae. This means Glory of the Olive, or Glory of the Olive Tree, and is said to have special reference to the Mount of 0 lives. The next Pope, it is supposed will have
some close personal link with the Holy Land and will make the establishment of peace in the Holy Land a primary objective of his pontificate.
It is argued because of this, that he will have some strong Jewish connection and, ideally. would himself be a Jew by birth, as were both Jesus and Peter. This would mean that the choice would fall on a Frenchman, Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris.
He himself, when asked if it is likely, replied:"Out of the question." But it is, perhaps cynically, whispered in Rome that the very fact that he is such an outsider makes it possible that he will, in fact, be chosen. Apart, however, from his advanced age about the same as Cardinal Martini — this is thought highly unlikely.
there is much speculation in Rome about the future of Fr Timothy Radcliffe, the English Master General of the Dominicans. He has now held this important post for nearly 10 years, and spends about half of each year travelling the world visiting various outposts of the order. He thus has few rivals among senior churchmen in terms of Ldowledge of the worldwide Church. He is a most charming, highly intelligent and unobtrusively devout priest. His slightly unconventional views are not always universally popular, but his transparent and unaffected honesty have combined with his obviously considerable gifts and spirituality to overcome any adverse effects from this, And he is known to enjoy the confidence and affection of Pope John Paul.
He will soon relinquish his prestigious post, and it is usual that a former Master General of the Dominicans should be made a cardinal. The next consistory will probably be too soon for this.
It is most likely that, in the meantime, he will be asked to come back to England and fill one of the
several current Of impending vacancies in the hierarchy of England and Wales. Arundel and Brighton is the most probable diocese for which he will be elected. This would put him in
line, being about the right age, to become Archbishop of Westminster, and therefore a cardinal. He could then very easily be the next Pope but one. One must hope that the prophecy of St Malachy is totally wrong about such a man being Christ's last vicar on Earth. I am sure it is.
AT A MORE hidden level, judging by what I heard from several sources, very interesting activity is operative in Rome behind the scenes. Numerous small groups meet in
various unexpected venues to carry on a sort of fringe programme of worship. This accords with the increasingly informal and personalised style of devotion that observers have noticed of late in Roman life.
One group meets on a room behind the sacristy of the Church of San Barnado in Porta Pinciana. As I well remember from my student days, this was
the only church in Rome at that time where Mass was said in our Lord's own language.
The group which meets there today attempts to recreate as far as possible the conditions of the Last Supper. Those present sit on the floor, as they did in the upper room. The bread and wine are passed round and consumed as at a. meal. The consecration is preceded by the words said by Jesus in Aramaic, now adopted for present day use in both Jewish and Christian liturgy. (The rest of the service is in Italian).
Some groups meet in each other's houses, as did the earliest Christians when they came together unobtrusively to celebrate the Lord's Supper or Breaking of Bread as the
ceremony was called in the first and second centuries.
In those days one of those present was chosen to preside. No mention of that time, of course of "priests"). Nowadays such a person is referred to as the "president".
Some of the participants in such groups refer to themselves as "ultra traditionalists". In a certain sense this is an apt description. But it has also given rise, in some cases, to an unwelcome development. It involves the activity of what WS Gilbert might have called, "that singular anomaly the intolerant liberalist". (I've got him on the list.) The unwelcome development referred to is the reproachful comment by some that those calling themselves traditionalists have a preference for practices which are comparatively new in terms of Church history as a whole. This, if referring to the use of liturgical Latin, the Tridentine Mass, the facing of the priest away from the people, Mass said by priests in private, confining of the kiss of peace to the clergy, services such as Benediction, etc. is quite true. But there is nothing wrong as such in preferring the traditions of the Middle Ages to that of the early Church. Everything depends on a sense of proportion and this spirit , which animates such practices, seeing them all in their proper place in the course of the Church's development as a whole.