Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, age 77, Germany
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, Italy (Milan)
Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 75, Colombia
Cardinal Walter Kasper, 72, Germany
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 77, Italy
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, retired Archibishop of Paris, France
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 62, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Cardinal Ivan Dias, 68, Archbishop of Mumbai (Bombay), India.
While the selection of the Pope is to be done with/by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in truth the Cardinals themselves are mere mortals, susceptible to pressures of all sorts and possessors of independent opinions on the topic. They cannot help but to reflect on how their choice would affect the direction and future of the Church in this modern world. Politics are a fact of life within the Church – truth be told, political maneuvering within the Roman Catholic Church puts most countries (rank amateur in comparison) to shame. It has come to light, both historically and subsequent to more modern conclaves, that negotiation and block voting occur during the selection of the Holy Father. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the conclave.
Some of the big questions involved in the selection of the new Pope are:
Italian or foreign?
Liberal or conservative?
Old or young?
It's quite likely that the Cardinals will return to historical type and select an Italian. But what about the influence of the rest of the world now? The demographics have changed a great deal in the last 25 years - the Roman Catholic world (due in great part to John Paul II) is a much larger place than it used to be. Not that there weren’t Catholics in all of those areas before, but John Paul II’s extensive traveling and efforts towards inclusiveness have expanded the influences on the Church beyond the traditionally European base, and the US. Latin America contains a very large percentage of the world's Roman Catholics, and the issues in developing nations also and well as the growing Catholic population there bear some weight. Overall, nearly 70% of the world's Catholics live in the Southern Hemisphere – that will certainly be taken into consideration to some extent. The breakdown of the Cardinals is 66 European, 14 North American, 24 Latin Americans, 18 from Asia and Oceania and 13 Africans. An associated question is whether the new Pope should be "Roman" or not—that is, whether he has close connections with the Roman Curia.
I think it's very clear that the Pope will not be selected from the US, due the myriad (and somewhat justified, I think fears) of 'the race being fixed' or an American Pope being a puppet. I cannot envision an American Pope in my lifetime, nor within the next century (based on the current world power distribution).
Another reason why an American Pope is so unlikely stems from the US flock itself. Think about it – we are the *most* rebellious, self centered, unrepentant Catholics on the face of the planet. Why would they give the papacy a Cardinal who cannot even keep his *own* people in line?
There is an old Roman saying – "After a fat pope, a lean pope ". This goes hand in hand with another long held Church tradition, that of following a lengthy or powerful pontificate with a 'caretaker' pope. This sort of pope is older (therefore tacitly expected to a have a short reign) and who won't do much to change the status quo. A Pope who will provide breathing room and the opportunity for the direction and future of the Church to be evaluated and a new course set. Someone to provide a firm hand on the tiller while the long term prospects and direction of the Church is evaluated. This is also referred to as the 'pendulum effect' – restoring a balance to the Church, or correcting the faults correcting the faults in the previous pope.
This leads to the discussion of whether the new head of the Church should be similar to or very different from the previous Pope? Past history would lean towards the selection of someone less theological and charismatic than John Paul II (who was the Chruch equivalent of a rock star) - a more administrative pope, given that this was his area of greatest weakness. He was far more of a thinker and world leader.
John Paul II expanded the worldwide presence and humanity of the Papacy – who would want to try to follow such a successful and popular Papacy? This leaves the
The potential voting blocks are wide ranging, but fall into several categories. Of course, the Italians with 20 of the 117 electors have the potential to carry great influence in the conclave. They many rally 'round a single candidate this time, rather than splitting into roval faction as they did in 1978. It would be no surprise at all that the Italians would seek to reclaim the Holy See after such a long interruption in their historic monopoly of the Papacy.
There are also factions within the Church based not upon nationality, but are basic theological responses to current and future challenges which face the Church. One such group is referred to as the social justice contingent. These church leaders consider issues outside of the Church, such as economic justice, racial relations and the fight against AIDS, are of great concern to the Church and that the Church should be involved in these issues going forward. These Cardinals encourage unity and understanding across cultural and ethnic groups.
Another such group is those who would act as a border patrol. Their main concern is maintaining Christian identity. They fear the loss of Church identity in the secular world, and want to stringently maintain the religious/secular boundaries very strictly.
Seemingly in opposition to the previous group in many ways, there are those within the Church who want to see the Church's teaching on such issues as abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research incorporated into civil law.
Finally, there is the reform contingent, who's focus is moving forward with the reforms which took place in Vatican II, including increasing the laity's role in the church and ecumenism as well as continuing liturgical reform.
The conclave begins soon. It result will be very interesting.