Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Pope Idol - Pape Idol

Bon après-midi à nouveau

(Good afternoon again)

Me with the Pope in Rome 2011

After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last month, today marks the beginning of the 'Papal Conclave' where 115 cardinals will be locked into the Sistine Chapel, Rome, to elect the next Pope in complete secrecy.

Mr Peach and I laughed this morning when we wondered if the Cardinals' experience in the chapel will be somewhat different from our own. Will they have to dodge endless gangs of Cruise ship passengers with their lollypop guides, on their way in? If they avoid that obstacle will they be told to "get back in line", after trying to skip a room on the three hour tour through endless, tedious rooms of religious iconography, that precedes the chapel? And, once in the chapel will they be crammed up against thousands of others, most of whom are filming (filming??) the stationary frescoes, whilst being shouted at by aggressive Vatican guards to 'Respect the Church!', 'No Photo!'?....hmm,....obviously not (but humour me).

Mr Peach & I about to start 'the longest museum visit on earth'...to reach the Sistine Chapel!

This time the 'competition' is a wide open field, with no outstanding candidates - my two favourite news websites seem unable to agree on 'Papabile' (Cardinals likely to be chosen for Pope) . The BBC have listed their choice ten 'Runners & Riders' here, with a brief outline of their CV, strengths & weaknesses. The Guardian have provided a much more detailed guide with all 115 Cardinals listed and their 'Papabile' highlighted. It can take months for a Pope to be elected, but by the time you've got through all 115 there may already be one!

I'm not Catholic myself, but Mr Peach is and in July we'll be marrying in his Catholic Church in St Annes. So, as a good wife-of-a-Catholic to be, I am very interested. Mr Peach has also been taking a teaching course called the Catholic Certificate in Education, this past two years - of which I have also had a read and found interesting, so I have more idea of Catholic doctrine than I once did.

On top of this - I hear that if you invite the Pope or the Queen to your wedding, they always send a reply (even if they can't come) - so I wonder who we're going to be writing to???

Here are some of the things the Cardinals will be thinking about:

It is thought that the cardinals might go for someone who is younger, since Pope Benedict retired citing heath issues of old age.

There are two enormous scandals engulfing the Catholic Church at the moment. The 'Vatileaks' scandal concerning financial cover-ups at the Vatican and (several) sexual abuse scandals involving Priests and their superiors. Any involvement in either might (and really should!) hinder a Candidate's chances. The Cardinals will need to choose a louder, more charismatic figure - someone who is able to use their popularity to dig the Catholic church out of both of these scandals with its head held high.

Scholarly or pastoral?
The CV's show various amounts of work in the scholarly field, in the doctorate of the Church, versus time spent in pastoral work, in amongst the congregations. Personally I believe that, whilst they will obviously need an excellent knowledge of the teachings and the Catechism of the church, knowledge is only valuable up to a point. Like all heads or managers, which at the end of the day is what the Pope is, having a connection with those who they lead will be their greatest asset. For the Cardinals a great connection to 'the people' gained through working in the field would be an asset.

There are no British candidates. It's thought that the Cardinals might shy away from another native German speaker, their last choice, Pope Benedict having been German speaking.
The majority of Cardinals (60% I think) are European - the majority of these being Italian, so the chances of an Italian Pope are mathematically quite high. The greatest Catholic population in the world at the moment is in South America. Then Europe. The next greatest, but by far the fastest growing Catholic population is in Africa.
In my eyes the cardinals will need to make a choice between pushing the rejuvenation of a waning following in Europe, or taking the opportunity to use Catholicism for the greater good in South America and Africa, by choosing one of their candidates as a figurehead.

Conservative or moderate? 
I am pleased to see so many of the Cardinals are on Twitter and other social media - connecting with the world in a very sensibly modern way - since this is where the majority go to now for information and to connect on a global scale. However, as one of the more conservative 'Twitterati' candidates put it, being modern and using social media, does not make you a moderate.
Personally I think that if the Catholic church wants to remain an important world power they need to embrace some elements that would be considered moderate. The issues of allowing abortion and ordaining of female Priests are obviously high on that agenda. But, as reform issues go, for me these pale into insignificance versus the allowing of contraception, namely condoms. This is such an important issue both in South America, for the largest Catholic population in the world, but vitally in Africa, with its growing Catholic following, where BILLIONS die each year from HIV & Aids. If a Pope were elected who advocated the use of Condoms to prevent spread of disease, and maybe even to curb population growth, which would ease poverty of the type so prominent in South America, this could begin to benefit a huge swath of the worldwide population within our lifetime. So, for me this is the biggest Pope-factor of all, that he have a firm belief in the reform of Catholic teaching on contraception.

So, there we are. I'm not going to get into candidates, or really ask how relevant the change in Pope will be to my own life.
But it's interesting to learn a little isn't it. I guess we'll just have to wait for that white smoke out of the chimney at the Sistine Chapel!

Oh I missed one final characteristic.....he'll need to be small and white haired....so I can continue to convince people that really is me with the Pope in that first picture! Tee hee!

Mlle Peche xx

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