let the papal games begin….no spectators allowed!

conclave chimney

One of the most important events in the Catholic Church is about to take place, and we’re not invited.

Today, the scarlet and lace bedecked cardinals will solemnly process into the Sistine Chapel amid chants of Veni Creator Spiritus. Only Vatican photographers will be allowed to record the historical moment.

This will be followed by the decidedly unceremonious declaration of extra omnes, everyone out! Then the heavy doors of the chapel will be slammed shut and sealed to keep in the princes of the church, and keep out the great unwashed.

Okay, I admit I have issues around the whole question of exclusivity and secrecy surrounding the conclave process. (My next Prairie Messenger article addresses it, and will be available in tomorrow’s issue.)

Today, the reality of it all has hit me. Yes, I care who the next pope will be. I care about the future of our church. I’ve been following as much of the news as possible from the great coverage at the National Catholic Reporter to the Vatican Insider. Canada’s own Peter Mansbridge has many insightful and thoughtful commentaries over at the CBC. Last night he provided several in depth reports on the National. Of special interest is a tour of the Vatican given to Mansbridge and some other reporters, shown at around the 21 minute mark.

I feel sorry for all the reporters who have descended on St. Peter’s in these next few days. All the speculations have already been speculated. All rumours have been squeezed out of informant cardinals. A swift conclave will make their lives easier. A long, drawn out conclave will leave them suspended in the in between nothingness of limbo.  Today all they – and we – can do is sit and wait.

This time, like no other, shouts loudly of the deep divide between the leaders of the church and her people. Cardinals, with all the pomp of princes, will vote, dine and discuss, and vote some more. We will have no access to the progress of the elections. We will have no knowledge of who is being considered.

With the echo of extra omnes, everyone out! still ringing in our ears, all we can do is hope and pray. Our role in this great drama is to merely stand and wait for the first signs of smoke to come out of a chimney. 

and my papal pick is….white smoke please!

Family and friends have been teasing me about heading to Rome to cast my ballot for the next pope. Oh, if only!!! I have to confess, that the church nerd in me would LOVE to parade into the Sistine Chapel and be part of the excitement. I look really good in red – my favorite color since childhood. And, who doesn’t like the opportunity to wear a deliciously frilly frock and hat! 😉

Since that honor and privilege has been denied me, I’ll cast my vote here on this blog with a true spirit of transparency and openness. Let the bells ring out and the white smoke rise… My choice for the next Pontifex Maximus, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome and the Servant of the Servants of God is…

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from Manila.

Archbshp Tagle

I first heard of Archbishop Tagle during the reports coming from the recent Synod for the New Evangelization. In the midst of pompous speeches about the evils of secularism and those nasty fallen away Catholics, he stood up and made a heartfelt call for more silence in our church.

“The church must discover the power of silence,” Tagle said. “Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions,” he said. “In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth.”

It was announced during the synod that the pastoral and much-loved Archbishop Tagle would receive the cardinal’s hat in the upcoming consistory, which immediately sparked excited papabile musings.

John L. Allen Jr. wrote a Papabile of the Day piece on Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle for the National Catholic Reporter. Here are some excerpts from that article,

  • One Filipino commentator has said Tagle has “a theologian’s mind, a musician’s soul and a pastor’s heart.”…
  • Earlier this year, before the news of Benedict’s resignation broke, a Filipino business journal named Tagle its “Man of the Year,” describing him as “young, unassuming, and without airs,” a bishop “who more than understands contemporary ideas.”…
  • In the Imus diocese, Tagle was famous for not owning a car and taking the bus to work every day, describing it as a way to combat the isolation that sometimes comes with high office. He was also known for inviting beggars outside the cathedral to come in and eat with him. One woman was quoted describing a time she went looking for her blind, out-of-work, alcoholic husband, suspecting she might track him down in a local bar, only to find that he was lunching with the bishop….
  • Tagle’s doctoral dissertation at Catholic University, written under Fr. Joseph Komonchak, was a favorable treatment of the development of episcopal collegiality at the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, Tagle served for 15 years on the editorial board of the Bologna, Italy-based “History of Vatican II” project founded by Giuseppe Alberigo, criticized by some conservatives for an overly progressive reading of the council.

Our church has suffered for too long from a centrist form of governance. The current malaise in the curia is proof that reform is needed, a reform that embraces the need for collegiality and not a heavy handed, top-down style of leadership.

Our church needs a chief pastor who can speak to the heart of the faith, who can excite crowds with his homilies and speeches – not bore them to death. The new evangelization is not about proclaiming dogmas and identifying evils. It is about reflecting a faith that is first and foremost a relationship with a living God. It is about reflecting the joy in knowing Jesus, and embracing the mission to live the gospel message of peace and justice in the world.

Some say that Cardinal Tagle is a long-shot candidate, at least this time around. He is too young. He is possibly too “nice” to clean up the current mess at the Vatican. He doesn’t have the curial experience of older cardinals.

If we expect our pope to be super-human, then no one can dare to fill the shoes of the fisherman. But, the fisherman who filled those original shoes wasn’t perfect either. A man who believes in a collegial style of leadership will not be a micro-manager. He will surround himself with those who have the necessary talents for each task.

I remember too well that horrible, sinking feeling when Cardinal Ratzinger’s name was announced after the last  habemus papam. Granted, Benedict XVI was perhaps a kinder and gentler pope than he was cardinal, but I SO want the next pope to be someone we can be excited about. Give us a man who exudes faith, humility, a passion for justice, and intelligence. Give us a man who gives us hope and makes us proud to be Catholic once more. And, yes, give us a man with a great smile! 🙂

Will the man who next steps out on the papal balcony produce a collective “meh!” around the world? Or, will he ignite a roar of excitement that will send the pigeons of St. Peter’s Square soaring for cover?

If Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle dons the papal whites, it will be the latter!