NEWS:  September 30, 2008

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

THE PAPAL SUCCESSION BEGINS –   The profile of the next Pope has begun to be discussed, and some candidates are already “campaigning” to be Benedict’s successor, according to serious international media organs. Three factors have entered the picture to activate this talk.

Benedict shows signs of ailing

Growing comments on an ailing Benedict...
First, Paris newpaper Le Figaro (April 25, 2008) and Roman weekly Adista (July 5, 2008) observe the fact that Pope Ratzinger is 81-years-old, had a serious heart attack and triple bypass surgery in 1992, and has been feeling the weight of the office more and more. His schedule has been trimmed down; his vacations are becoming more frequent; he is increasingly asking Cardinals to represent him at events he should attend and having others read his speeches. During his trip to the US he could visit only two cities, and in Australia he had to take a week vacation before the scheduled activities to recover from the jet lag.

In brief, Joseph Ratzinger would not be able to fully carry out his duties, concludes Adista.

Second, after pointing out these debilities of Benedict, Le Figaro announces the French translation of a book by Card. Oscar Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras and president of Caritas International. In his book The Difficulty of Evoking God, the Salesian Cardinal asks for more collegiality in the elections of Bishops, criticizes the Eurocentrism of the Church, and urges that the next Pope come from the Southern hemisphere so that his experience with poverty can help in North-South dialogue. Many saw in these words of Maradiaga a kind of bid for the papacy and the opening of the game of succession to the Throne of Peter. These interpretations went so far that the Cardinal, in an interview with Il Giornale (May 21, 2008), was obliged to deny that his comments referred to the present pontificate since they were made in 2004.

Maradiaga’s protests, however, do not ring true, since parts of his book distinctly analyze the 2005 conclave and the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Adista, which rebuts the Cardinal’s denial, reproduces these texts in its issue of July 5, 2008 (p. 15).

Bertone in Cuba

"Vice-Pope" Bertone at a meeting in Cuba
Another candidate for the papacy, according to the same magazine Adista, is Card. Tarcisio Bertone, present day Secretary of State of the Vatican. He would be a strong candidate for the succession: his election would follow the example of Cardinals Pacelli and Montini, both Secretaries of State of previous Popes who, in their turn, became Pius XII and Paul VI (1). Further, Bertone was recently appointed Dean of the body of Cardinals to replace Card. Angelo Sodano (May 11).

Also, Bertone is the one chosen to travel everywhere - Cuba, Armenia, Byelorussia - representing the Pope, to the point that he has been nicknamed the “flying pope.” He has, however, a strong point against him: being Italian his election would represent “a return to the old tradition,” as Maradiaga puts it - the opposite of what he believes the Church needs today.

Third: To these two reasons presented by the media, I would add another that favors a possible end to Benedict’s pontificate: his complete failure in the task he was assigned to accomplish. Indeed, anyone who has a fresh memory of that April 2005, when Joseph Ratzinger received – in record time – the ballots needed to be elected Pope, will recall that he was chosen to bring unity both inside and outside the Church.

Inside the Church, he should unite progressivists and traditionalists. The two encounters he had with Hans Kung and Bernard Fellay followed that agenda. However, even though Kung remains a supporter of Benedict, the same cannot be said of the Society of St. Pius X and its followers, whose leader is Bishop Fellay. Much talk of reconciliation was heard these last three years. But even with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which gave a broader permission to say the Tridentine Mass, and despite promises and ultimatums by the Vatican to the SSPX leaders, they did not agree to unite with the Vatican.

To the refusal - or, better said, the sine die postponement - of an agreement by SSPX, Benedict and Hoyos responded by curbing their supposed “conversion to traditionalism.” Indeed, Pope Ratzinger en route to Paris (September 12, 2008) declared that the motu proprio was “merely an act of tolerance,” trying to downplay its importance. And Card. Castrillon Hoyos complained last week about the partisans of the Tridentine Mass, calling them “insatiable” in their demands. He offered as an example the request he received for the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome to be designated as a place where only the Tridentine Mass would be said (The Tablet, September 27, 2008).

So, the idyllic possibility of unity between traditionalists and the Vatican still seems some years off in the future, a time frame that will probably outrun Benedict’s term of office.

Benedict welcomes Williams

Above, the Vatican's warm welcome for Williams ends in disappointment...  Below, kisses with Schismatics, but no progress in ecumenism

Benedict kisses schismatics

Outside of the Church, Ratzinger’s task was twofold. He was supposed to achieve unity with the Protestants and the Schismatics (or the so-called Orthodox).

Regarding the unity with Protestants, Card. Ratzinger was the one who penned the Augsburg Accord, the agreement between Catholics and Protestants on the doctrine of justification that pretended to cancel out the condemnations of the Council of Trent. That accord was the boldest pact between these two religions since Luther’s revolt and the greatest doctrinal “victory” of conciliar ecumenism. Thus, Ratzinger appeared to be the right man in the right place to achieve an ecumenical merger between these two religions.

But Protestantism is a sack of cats, all clawing and scratching among themselves inside the bag. Unity among them is next to impossible. At any rate, the Anglican sect was the one closest to the Catholic Church, according to the progressivist saga. Thus, the Vatican did its best to present the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury as the indisputable head of the Anglican sect, a kind of pope presiding over 80 million followers around the world. Rowan Williams was received many times at the Vatican by Benedict; Card. Walter Kasper was sent often to England to foster the unity of the Catholic Church and Anglicanism.

Despite these efforts and warm manifestations of cordiality, the Anglican sect fell to pieces this summer. There is no longer any Anglican group on the game board with whom the Vatican can unite… Besides, the long-wooed Williams has admitted women priests and bishops, as well as homosexual bishops, making Benedict’s task morally impossible.

Other Protestant sects such as the Lutherans are much more opposed to ecumenism than the Anglicans were. Further, they lack a person to play the role of head. As an expression of the spirit of revolt, no member wants anyone over him and denies obedience to any superior. The practical result is that Ratzinger cannot accomplish this goal of unity with them.

Regarding the unity with the so-called Orthodox, the situation has gone no further than the paralyzed ecumenism under John Paul II. Benedict has participated in pan-religious meetings, kissed many Schismatics, offered them gifts, prayed together as often as he could, but these initiatives have not changed the intransigent refusal of the Schismatics to take substantial steps on the road of ecumenism. The only figure who appears everywhere with Benedict is Bartholomew II, a man who leads just a few thousand followers and is not taken seriously by any of the other Schismatic heads. His supposed leadership over all the “Orthodox” is nothing but another progressivist fabrication.

Therefore, on every front where Benedict XVI was supposed to bring unity, there is disunity. It is not difficult to conclude that he failed his task.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some people are already speculating about his successor. There is nothing to do at this point but wait to see what develops. It will also be interesting to watch how the transition will be made. Will it be a resignation or a sudden end by means of one of those formulas for which only the Vatican has the secret?
1. Actually Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini was pro-Secretary of State along with Msgr. Domenico Tardini. In 1944, after the death of the previous Secretary of State, Card. Luigi Maglione, Pius XII named both Montini and Tardini as heads of the Secretariat of State without the title - they only had the title of pro-Secretaries of State. Montini exercised this position until 1954, when he was made a Cardinal and sent to Milan as Archbishop. From there, he would return to Rome in 1963 to become Pope Paul VI, succeeding John XXIII. In 1958, Msgr. Tardini became a Cardinal and the Secretary of State of John XXIII.

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