PADDY POWER, bookmaker to the Irish priests, is
offering odds on who is likely to succeed the late Pope John Paul II, already
dubbed ‘St John Paul the Great’.
At the time of writing, the betting is: Italian
Dionigi Tettamanzi 5‑2; Nigerian Francis Arinze 11‑4; Honduran
Oscar Maradiaga 4-l; and Bavarian Chief Inquisitor Joseph Ratzinger 7‑1.
Arinze, Maradiaga and Ratzinger have been in the top four for several years.
Only two previous popes have been called ‘The Great’.
Leo the Great died in 461 and Gregory the Gnat in 590. They was followed by St
Hilarius and Sabinianus respectively, both of whose pontificates were shorter
and less charismatic than their famous predecessors. Hence we may expect the
appointment of an older caretaker pope at this time.
In 1978 the present Pope’s predecessor, John Paul I,
who was widely thought to have been murdered, was elected in a mere four
ballots. This was at the behest of two cardinals who had no difficulty in
swaying a sufficient number of their colleagues to carry the day.
GROPING IN THE DARK
A cardinal described the second 1978 conclave, the one
that appointed John Paul II, as “groping in the dark”. The power struggle was
between three power blocks: the extremely reactionary Italian supporters of
Cardinal Siri, the new Vatican II liberals, and Ratzinger’s central block
sniping at, and poaching, from both. The possibility of a non‑Italian
pope was unthinkable, the last such being a Dutchman whose brief pontificate
ended in 1523.
The bellicose Italians, by blocking proceedings, self
destructed. The Ratzinger faction, in alliance with the increasingly frustrated
non‑Italians, had previously approached Wojtyla’s senior, Wyszynski, who
demurred, but ordered Wojtyla “to accept”. This took eight ballots, with a
maximum of four per day, and produced a result in a few days.
INTRIGUE IN THE CONCLAVE
watchers shadow Paddy power, but the decision lies ultimately with the dominant
power groups. They will make introductions on the first day, the 18th April.
This is when the non‑voting Cardinals, those who are aged over 80 years,
exert their influence. John Paul II flattered himself by creating more
Cardinals than any other pope before him and he created them “in his own
image”. Of the 117 voting Cardinals under 80 years, almost all are John Paul
In 1996 John Paul II promulgated Universi Dominici
Gregis (‘All the Lord’s flock’) which laid down that after about 30 ballots or
12 days a tie breaker of 50% plus one vote would replace the usual two thirds
majority. Despite this the Conclave may well follow the pattern of the eight
conclaves of the 20th century, where there have been on average eight ballots
(with a range of between 3 and 14 ballots).
More sinister is John Paul II`s ruling of
excommunication for anyone guilty of purchasing votes. At the same time he
ruled that the standing of a pope so elected would remain valid even if simony
came to light. Opus Dei is fabulously rich and could afford any price tag if so
minded and manage the consequences. Similarly John Paul II, by the same
directive, released the new pope from honouring any deals he might have made in
Conclave. He clearly considered both these irregularities real possibilities.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE JOB
The princes of the church may well have
egos large enough for the job, but there is more to it than that. Seventeen
per cent of the world’s population are Roman Catholics. The world’s population
are Roman Catholics. The papacy is the largest and most wealthy global
religious corporation on earth, as Scripture predicted it would be. The number
of Roman Catholics increased by one quarter during John Paul II’s pontificate,
yet its servicing priesthood has remained static at 400,000. Only one third of
its devotees are in Europe and North America, two thirds being in southern
hemisphere with 43% in Latin America.
African Roman Catholics have increased from 50 to 90
million in the last 20 years.
Therefore a charismatic personality, an able intellect
and a good grasp of languages, over and above the ever essential Italian and
Latin, is really essential. Yet it is unlikely to be possessed by most
lacklustre caretaker candidates. It is interesting that at the 1998 Asiatic
summit, a Japanese bishop asked why papal material, reaching them in Latin,
once translated into Japanese had according to custom to be returned to Rome to ensure it was correct, when no one in the Vatican was qualified to check it!
THE ITALIAN CANDIDATE
Italy has now
only a tiny proportion of the world’s Roman Catholics, yet it is the hills of Rome on which “the woman sitteth” which
define Rome. Although the
number of Italian voting Cardinals is small there is a large body of non‑voting
Italian cardinals behind the scenes. Further the Vatican is the country of
domicile for many cardinals so that overall 35% of the voting cardinals, if not
heading Italian dioceses, live and work in Vatican City which stamps an
indelible mark on men wherever they come from.
Paddy Power and the pundits rate Dionigi Tettamanzi
(Bull’s breasts!) as favourite of the four Italians in the top ten. He is 71,
which is the ideal caretaker age, and yet not so old that the ploy is too
obvious to the cynics. He is non charismatic, the epithet “that wee fat guy”
has stuck. He is a conservative, a John Paul II clone. More important, he is
intelligent enough to have won over Opus Dei by supporting the recent canonisation
of Opus Dei founder Escriva with a panegyric on Escriva, and yet not so
intelligent that they need fear his outsmarting them.
WHY NOT RATZINGER, THE PANZER‑KARDINAL
On the face of it Ratzinger, John Paul II’s enforcer
and his genuine friend, would seem an ideal choice to safeguard John Paul’s
heritage. Ratzinger is the first Inquisitor in history to have a thriving fan
club with a busy merchandising section complete with tee shirts, beer steins,
car stickers, fridge magnets and, as the latest addition, a streetwise white
cap with PAPIST emblazoned across the front in German Gothic script.
Ratzinger is certainly the conservative’s champion.
He is already essentially a vicepope and behaves as such around the Vatican. At 77 he is the oldest popeable cardinal, and would
probably be seen to be more valuable first as a pope maker in conclave, and
then as a continuing conservative enforcer and thorn in the side of a new pope
who might be a little too liberal.
A SMILING BLACK
With only slightly lower odds than Tettamanzi is the
smiling black, “Mr Interfaith” Francis Arinze of Nigeria, where the Church faces a hostile Islam. His age is right at 72. He
is a conservative. He has worked in Rome. He is
pleasant but yet no threatening original thinker. He heads the Pontifical
Council for Inter‑religious Dialogue. He set up John Paul II’s visit to
a mosque, the fast ever visit by a pontiff, and would be ideal for dialogue
Until there is a black President of the USA conservative Rome
may not be ready for this bold statement particularly as the Nigerian
Cistercian monk, Cyprian Tansi, that baptised Arinze at age nine, and lured him
into the priesthood, was beatified in Nigeria by John Paul
II in March 1998. Tansi thereby became the first West African candidate for
canonisation. But John Paul also created Arinze Cardinal in 1985. If Arinze
were to become the first African pope many might fear huge press publicity that
would picture West Africa as the breeding ground of the papal future
particularly as the two enjoyed a prolonged fairy tale father‑son
relationship fitting for a Hollywood movie.
Also there are a host of talented Latin American
Cardinals serving nearly half all Roman Catholics who might well feel they have
historical and numerical priority.
A WITTY LIBERAL
The leading liberal is Belgian heart disease victim
Godfried Danneels. He is 72 with a limited expectation of life. He has a good
intellect spiced with wit. He is on record as saying that condoms should be
used to counteract the spread of AIDS. He would also welcome a modest opening
up of the Church to women. Even more important is the fact that he favours
collegiality, that is decentralisation of power, delegating it down from the Vatican to individual bishops of dioceses. John Paul II
spent his whole pontificate doing just the opposite, and there is a huge
groundswell of opinion demanding that this be reversed as a top priority. Many
conservatives who would not agree with Danneels on much else, might be forced
to join his camp as their only hope of advancing this one vital issue.
Finally all these popeable men have lesser doubles,
much as Wojtyla was to Wyszinski. But however fresh and appealing these
secondary figures might appear in conclave ‑ and early sound bites do
indicate younger Cardinals in buoyant mood looking to repeat John Paul’s
performance ‑ the election of one of these charismatic, young, secondary
figures is probably something the powerful, elderly, grey gentlemen will exert
their authoity to avoid.