ROME — “It’s not journalists that vote in the conclave. It’s cardinals,” Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said on Sunday, after celebrating Mass at his titular church of San Francesco di Ripa Grande.
Cardinal Rivera’s words underscore that this conclave could deliver a surprise and the possibility that none of the cardinals mentioned as papabili will be the new pope.
In fact, now more than ever, each cardinal has approximately the same odds of becoming pope.
Gianfranco Svidercoschi, the former vice director of the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano, said that, “traditionally, the cardinals had two different and contrasting schools of thought: those who want to bring on the Second Vatican Council reform and push the Church toward more collegiality and those who have tried to slow this push down, trying to give a new shape to the centrality of Rome.
“Nowadays, the debate is not that polarized, and categories like ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive’ (taken from politics and applied to the Church) are not worthy for explaining what is going on.”
This is proved by the presence of Cardinal Jose Luis Antonio Tagle in the College of Cardinals and his name being floated as a man who is able to be pope.
Benedict XVI held Cardinal Tagle in great esteem, ever since he was a member of the International Theological Commission, which then-Cardinal Ratzinger led at the time.
On the other hand, Cardinal Tagle is also one of the authors of the History of Vatican Council II, produced by the School of Bologna. The School of Bologna saw the Second Vatican Council through a “hermeneutic of rupture,” leading them to believe it caused a “breach” in the history of the Church.
Since his very first speeches as pope, on the other hand, Benedict XVI proposed an opposing “hermeneutic of continuity” that believed the reforms instituted by the Council were rooted in the Church’s Tradition and assumed it, instead of casting it aside.
If one looks at his work with the School of Bologna, Cardinal Tagle should be considered a “progressive,” but his involvement in the Theological International Commission should make him a conservative. So the question remains: What is his school of thought and theology?
According to Farther Gino Belleri, a priest who has worked closely with the Vatican for almost 50 years, “there is a good deal of confusion among the cardinals. None of them belongs to a peculiar school of thought, and no one seems to have the needed consensus. I am afraid of a long conclave.”
One of the longest conclaves in the last century was that of 1963.
Cardinal Giovan Battista Montini had, in fact, no true contender.
But right after the announcement of the death of Pope John XXIII, a number of cardinals gathered in Rome and held informal preliminary meetings.
This alarmed Cardinal Pietro Ciriaci, who commented, “If the result of the conclave was certain, there would not be this sudden coming of foreign cardinals to Rome.”
The 1963 conclave was in fact more tense than expected. At the end of the fourth vote, Cardinal Giovan Battista Montini wanted to stand up and officially withdraw.
In the end, he did not pull his name out, and he was elected on the sixth ballot.
What will this conclave be like, since there is no strong polarization and no charismatic characters on the floor?
The late Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, who took part in four conclaves, used to say, “A conclave gives birth to a pope.”
That is certainly true, now more than ever.