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Mar 08

My Thoughts on a New Pope

So if I were a Papal elector, what would I be looking for? Well, I have several requirements:

1) Enthusiasm: The Pope needs to do the rah-rah stuff. He needs to be able to motivate both laity and clergy to have some enthusiasm for the faith once again. Catholicism is a dirty word in many circles, we need a Pope who can help debunk that thought and garner our religion some respect and vigor once again.

2) Humility: The Pope needs humility. The Pope needs to be reminded of his own humanity alongside the powerful position that he will have. He should be someone comfortable talking with a Nobel prize winner as well as the school custodian.

3) Vitality: After two Popes who have been older, we need a younger Pope. We need a Pope who can travel with ease and not get too run down. This is a back breaking job and we need someone who can withstand that kind of schedule.

4) Language: The Pope needs to speak many languages. I’d put four at the top of the list: Spanish, Italian, English and Mandarin. China, already a world power will need a Pope who can speak candidly with them.
You’d be surprised how important this is in the Papacy.

5) Collegial: The Pope cannot be a micro manager, but at the same time, the Pope needs to be able to trust those who work in the curia and be kept informed of the day to day operations so there are no surprises. Therefore, I’d prefer a Pope who was more pastoral and a secretary of state who was more of a strong administrator. The New York Times agrees with me:

Few candidates come with the whole package of talents, and the Italian news media have even floated the notion that the cardinals are considering “tickets” that would pair a pastoral pope with a tough, savvy secretary of state who could act as an administrator and, if need be, enforcer.

So think Ed Koch as Pope but Mike Bloomberg as the Secretary of State in terms of personality. It should be noted that Bloomberg is a good administrator but is also a very gracious man who is tough when he needs to be.

6) A GOOD PREACHER: The Pope cannot be a boring preacher. The Pope needs to tell inspiring stories. The Pope needs to reach out to young people using media. The Pope needs to awaken us to the wisdom that lies in our tradition and in scripture and most important, the Pope needs to be able to show priests and deacons and certainly Bishops how to preach, how to inspire. I’ve heard many a bad homily from a Bishop and more from Pastors and Deacons. Fortunately, we have good preachers at our parish, but I wonder what the life of the faithful is like where people are being served by those who fail to inspire.

7) A First-hand Experience of the Poor: One of the biggest things about World Youth Day was hearing where young people were serving the church. Like this guy:

And we thought we had problems here in the United States. Has the Pope been inspired by this experience of poverty? The last two Popes have highlighted the need for us to be involved with the poor, but they were both Eurocentric. I think it’s time for a Pope from the developing world.

8. Intelligent: We’d assume this most often, but I’m taking it a step further. The Bishop of Rome is a teacher, someone who can take complex theological ideas and proclaim them to people less educated than he is. Someone who can square biblical principles with adult critical reasoning. People need religious education today and with the evolution of media wouldn’t it be great if the Pope taught a Catholic basics course online?

9) Understands the Media: The Pope needs to understand how the media works and can be able to use the media to proclaim his message both from his own platform, but also in the mainstream. How will the media report on this? Is a big question to ask every time something big is going to be released. This was a disaster in Pope Benedict’s papacy, which most likely led to his resignation. An inability to keep up with the media is not a good quality for the Vatican to have.

10) Healthy and Scandal-Free: Perhaps someone who hasn’t been a Cardinal or even a bishop for that long is a good candidate for this reason. It would give us someone who is likely untainted by the sexual abuse scandal, but also someone who can handle cleaning the mess of that up without being reviled by that. Both physical health and personal integration are key in the next Pope. Who is someone who people can respect intellectually and see the strength that lies in their spirit. We need a Pope that someone can look at and say: “Now there’s a smart man that I can respect. A Holy man.

A final one:

11) A Person of Deep Prayer: Let’s face facts, we all know people who pray and we all know people who do not. The Pope needs to be someone who can pray with and for the flock as their shepherd. He also needs to know that God is with him on the journey. I hope the Pope avails himself of a spiritual director who can journey with him and help him see where God is lurking in his Papacy, because that is something that can easily get lost in all of this.

So pray for the Pope, whoever he might be. And pray for the new Curia, those administrators who will work in the Vatican. They will all need our prayers.

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1 comment

  1. Andie

    I so agree with your requirements! A tough order but, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit has votes too! I especially like #8 – funny that you link intelligence with religious education (adults and children). We have completely changed our religious ed. program at our parish because our current one-hour a week, drop off at the curb programs don’t work. I wish that this would be addressed at the level of the bishops. We have incorporated media, online work, videos, etc. Lots of hard work but the only way to reach the kids…..why can’t they see this????? Thanks for this!

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