inevitably something distasteful in writing about the next Pope when the holder of that august office has only just been laid to the rest, and I find it particularly so as I write this on the other side of the earth, in Hong Kong — where Pope Paul paid a brief and memorable visit — and am about to leave for the interior of China.
Yet those who live in public must expect to die in public, and Pope Paul would be the first to acknowledge that the life of the Church must go on. I will be able to pay my tribute to our late Holy Father at a subsequent date, but meanwhile what sort of a man do we need as his successor?
There is no obvious successor to the late Pope, and this is an advantage since the electors of the Sacred College will be able to address themselves to the
question of what sort of a Pope we need to lead the People of God into the last quarter of the century uninhibited by questions of personalities.
I believe that the man we need at this point in time is not an administrative but a pastoral Pope. The task of administering an organisation the size of the Catholic Church in modern conditions is now beyond the capabilities of any one man.
To attempt to do so is to hand the Church over to the administration of a bureaucracy. The only Pope of this century not to attempt this task was Pope John, a self-denying ordinance which, with his personality, was the foundation of his world-wide mission. The next Pope needs to be a man who can preside over a double fluralism — a pluralism of theology and attitudes within the Catholic Church and a wider pluralism among all Christians and indeed of men of religious outlook everywhere.
The decisive choice of our age is one for or against God. He needs to have clear views as to the goals towards which the Catholic Church should move but at the same time to be responsive to the tides of opinion and thought flowing within the body of the faithful.
This is the overriding question compared to which the question of whether the next Pope should or should not be Italian is a minor one. Who is the right man for the times? The cardinals must now decide, and I will not tarry to speculate about this or I will miss the train to Peking.
GEORGE BULL, Director of The Tablet: Evelyn Waugh said that he would not presume to advise the monarch on the choice of ministers; how much more so should one not presume to advise the Holy Ghost or the cardinals on the choice of the next successor to St Peter.
Nonetheless, ten theologians have laid down their criteria for the election of the Pope and every Catholic is a theologian in his or her way, and the main thing is not to lay down conditions as to which candidate — Cardinal Benelli or Cardinal Pironio, Cardinal Gantin or Cardinal Hume -is preferable.
The office makes the man, and it is impossible to predict who, once the decision is made, will prove the most pastoral Pope, the Pope most ready to serve, the Pope most open to the world, the Pope who will inspire and not only scold, the Pope who will be free from anxiety, devoted to Christian unity, determined to "decentralise" the government of the Church.
And in any case all these "criteria" from the theologians are matters of balance and degree in a Church that is reeling, but still erect.
We have just lost in our local Church a good priest to another parish. There was no consultation with the laity. Perhaps there should have been, perhaps not. He attracted children — all of us — eagerly to Mass.
With that experience, I feel the greatest sympathy for what Patrick O'Donovan described in The Observer as a "way-out" idea, namely, that the cardinals should simply elect a humble pastor to be the Bishop of Rome.
"It is a fascinating possibility", he wrote. "But once the triple crown is on his head, there is no way of foretelling how a man will grow or shrivel." Mr O'Donovan said of this idea that it "curiously has support among the most sophisticated and progressive of Catholic leaders". I am sure it
'The office makes the man, and it is impossible to predict who, once the decision is made, will prove the most pastoral Pope