Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
After five days of deliberation, the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals that will choose the next pope have finally decided that their conclave will begin on Tuesday, March 12.
Judging by statistics, they will need less time to elect a new pope than they did to set the date of the conclave. Since the early 20th century, no conclave has lasted more than five days. Benedict XVI was chosen after one day of voting, and his predecessor, John Paul II, after three days.
Experts say the cardinals took so long to decide on a conclave date because they spent the five days politicking, teasing out who the candidates might appoint as secretary of state – the pope’s deputy. That position would be the one to either fight or expand the Vatican’s rigid bureaucracy, especially the administrative body known as the Roman Curia.
“The first thing [the secretary of state] has to do is put greater order in the central administration of the Curia,” Cardinal Edward Egan, the retired archbishop of New York, told The New York Times. “He has to be willing to take criticism.”
As a result, both proponents of church reform and those who want to maintain the status quo have been putting out feelers to see whose support they can count on, and who each candidate would choose as his deputy if elected.
“The cardinals wanted time to organize themselves according to their rhythm of reflection and the need for information,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters. “They can use the time they think best.”
The slow pace, some Vatican experts speculated, may benefit those who want to reform, since those who benefit from the current order would want things to move more quickly.
Italian daily Corriere della Sera has reported that Cardinal Angelo Scola is a frontrunner for the post. He apparently has some 40 votes locked in, mostly from Italy, Central Europe and a few from the United States. Mr Scola wants to reform the church. His main opponents are cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone. Together they are pushing Brazilian
Cardinal Odilo Scherer to be the next pope.
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