High expectations for new pope

I’m amazed at the interest shown by the New Zealand media at what is happening here in Rome in these days. The interviewers from back home whom I speak to each day seem really intrigued by this whole conclave phenomenon.

It is something unique in the world – the perceived “power” or influence of the papacy, the huge crowds of people from every part of the globe gathering here, and those elsewhere praying with them for divine guidance as the cardinals begin their deliberations. Added to which is the quaint juxtaposition of state-of-the-art technology alongside traditional mediaeval communication by smoke signals. Then there is the real uncertainty of no front-runners and the possibility of a surprise, in spite of all the speculation and so-called informed commentary.

It is Wednesday midday here in Rome and we have just had more black smoke signalling the unsuccessful morning ballots. Three down and we wonder how many more to go.

At least there’s no fear of it lasting for thirty three months like the one in 1268 in Viterbo, a town north of Rome.

By the time this is read we may find that against all predictions to the contrary we have a pope. So I along with many thousands of others, will have my eyes fixed on the Sistine Chapel chimney, watching and waiting in the rain and cold for the result of the next ballot in the hope of the miracle of an early result.

Most people agree that there are four main requirements for the new pontiff of the 21st century: gobal vision, missionary zeal, strong management ability and last but not least, determination to clean up the sexual abuse issue once and for all. And because we are a faith community as well as a global organisation, this cannot be addressed effectively unless the pope is a man of deep and prayerful faith with a joyful heart and a humble spirit.

The first requirement is for a man of broad global vision. Only one third of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics lives in the West and it is expected that by mid-century it will be one quarter.

The second is about evangelisation. This means renewing missionary zeal amongst Catholics and reaching out to communities beyond the Church. I believe there is a misconception outside the Catholic Church about evangelising. It is not playing the numbers game and attempting to “convert” people to Catholicism. It is rather about stripping away all the unnecessary baggage of the institution that prevents people from seeing and being attracted to the truth and beauty of the person of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

The third challenge is that in order to oil the wheels and achieve the above, strong governance right from the top is required. Some of the old ways of management need to be replaced with 21st century best business practice in the Vatican Curia to make for improved communications, efficiency, transparency and accountability. A tall order indeed, as anyone who is familiar with the practices of the Curia will tell us.

As for sexual abuse, no more pussy-footing can be tolerated at any level in the Church. Only a man of strength and determination with a clean record in his handling of this disgrace to our faith and our Church can be contemplated.

– Lyndsay Freer is the Catholic media spokesperson for the Auckland Diocese. She is writing from Rome.

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News category: Pope.

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