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It is surely premature to start talking about ‘conclave contenders’

Instead, let’s give thanks for Pope Benedict XVI’s wise leadership and continued good health

By on Thursday, 12 January 2012

Archbishop Dolan of New York, pictured addressing the media, is to be given a red hat (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Dolan of New York, pictured addressing the media, is to be given a red hat (Photo: CNS)

I learnt from the Herald that on January 6 the Holy Father appointed 22 new cardinals. Not being an obsessive Vatican-watcher I confess I hadn’t heard of any of them, with the exception of the former Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. I did scroll down the list, wondering if our own Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, was among them. He wasn’t. Then I read the posts: largely negative about Nichols and showing little enthusiasm for Dolan either. I am reminded (again) to try to avoid Church politics as it is always such a depressing business. That’s politics for you.

Alongside this news I have been reading Robert Mickens’s article in the Tablet of December 31, entitled Conclave contenders. I groaned at the title alone. Of course the Holy Father is right – and it is his prerogative after all – to keep up the Sacred College of Cardinals to a healthy number; these are the men who will decide his successor when the time comes. But I emphasise when the time comes because it strikes me that the Tablet seems very eager to begin the speculation about who will succeed Pope Benedict. I seem to recall a Tablet luminary looking shocked and discomfited when the news broke on April 19, 2005 that the conclave had elected Cardinal Ratzinger. I can’t think why, unless it was that his track record as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not always pleasing to the alternative magisterium operating from London W6.

As to the article itself, I had heard of two of “the likely candidates”, as Mickens calls them: Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Schönborn OP. “A few outsiders” were also included and I recognised the names of Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Neither of these are papabile in my view; but what do I know?

Mickens writes: “Although Pope Benedict’s general health appears to be good, he has begun to show signs of fatigue and increasing frailty. History and prudence would suggest that the cardinals of the Church should seriously start thinking about suitable candidates to succeed him… They must avoid being caught unprepared, as apparently they were at the last conclave.”

Excuse me? I thought Cardinal Ratzinger emerged very early on as the strongest candidate at that conclave – and thank God for it. The Holy Spirit also played His part. I seem to remember that the late Peter Hebblethwaite often forecast the imminent demise of the late John Paul II, and then died himself a full decade before the Pope.

Of course Pope Benedict won’t go on forever; but for now, let’s celebrate his continued intellectual vigour and physical stamina, give thanks for the inspired initiatives of his pontificate (so far), such as his wise handling of the schism in the liturgy between the Novus Ordo and the Tridentine Mass – and leave the future in God’s hands.

  • Cotswold59

    Mickens truly hates Pope Benedict XVI, which is well known, but I do wonder why he hates him so much!!!

  • Anon

    Fides et Ratio: former science teacher, SCIAF and Edinburgh’s own English speaking Cardinal;
    Faslane CND? Thy kingdom come!

  • South Saxon

    Mickens has a high opinion of the importance of his own views in affairs ecclesiastical being on record as condemning Summorum Pontificum as of “dubious validity” and opining that B16 is not a trained liturgist. What a strange parallel universe Tabletistas inhabit.

  • Alejandro

    While I agree with the thoughts expressed here I must take issue with one tiny detail. Archbishop (and soon to be Cardinal) Dolan remains and is presently the Archbishop of New York. He is not the ‘former’ Archbishop as contended here.

  • Anonymous

    If the pope lives another 5, 10, even 15 years – which he could – then none of these names are even likely to be in the frame. In any case, every couple of years or so there is a consistory and new cardinals will be created and this will change the composition of the college and the dynamics of any conclave. Given that this pope has now created more than half of the college, and that many of the older, more liberal cardinals are either dead or too old to vote, I think it’s premature to guess who will be the next pope – he may not even be a cardinal yet – but he is more likely to be in the image of the current pope than in the mould of the Tabletistas. You know the saying – liberals are always loyal to the next pope…

  • theroadmaster

    Pope Benedict XV1 was elected to the Chair of Peter in 2005, with groans coming from predictable quarters such as “Tablet” correspondents who viewed the outcome as a betrayal of their hopes for  their version of the Vatican 11 reforms.  There has been a continuous sniping against the current pope from the long grass since then by the same suspects who want to overturn Church positions on such topics as abortion, birth control, women priests, celibacy and the definition of marriage and sexual morality  The “Tablet” article speculating on the palpabile contenders for the next succession to the Pontifical office, exhibits an insensitive and ideologically based attempt to imagine a future pope made in the image of the contributors and editorial staff of that particular publication. 

  • South Saxon

    A pope in the image of Ma Pepinster!!!!!

  • James

    Long live Pope Benedict XVI. That’s what I say!

  • Hno3burns

    come on, this is something i would not even want to be thinking about!

  • Apostolic

    Of course, Mickens’s opinions are rated by him as well above those of the Pope. By all accounts he burst into tears when he heard the news of Benedict XVI’s election. Whenever he (Mickens) is hauled out by the BBC on some Vatican issue or other, his views are entirely predictable, bound to be disloyal, bitchy, ideologically driven and only remotely connected to the issues in question.

  • Edin-Nth

    Great article, Francis  -  needed to be said  !

  • http://www.facebook.com/tcathal TCathal Loftus

    The “Loony Lefties” need to get advance publicity for their preferred papabiles. But, why oh why are they so studiously ignoring Sinéad O’Connor? Attitude adjustment is now imperative! 

  • Oviedo Gambetta

    My compliments for your article: very objective and supernatural, at the same time: it is not easy both aspects together.
    Besides I would just add, not to forget, that history of mankind is not just a happening… But we have to combine the Providence (Latin : pro videre = to look after) of the Lord, and our personal liberty and personal commitments.
    Obliviously sometime we ought to have a new Bishop of Rome: may God conserve Pope Benedict, and it is proper to already pray for the one to come.

  • Nyankslawrence

    People don`t just look at who will succeed the Pope right now,but continue praying for the Holy Spirit who is guiding the church to continue doing the same and a ward the Holy Father wisdom and energy.
    The successor,it`s only God who knows.

  • Tiddles The Cat


    Live with it!

  • Parasum

    Premature ? Granted. It’s just “silly season” talk. Maybe it means there are at present no fresh news stories to investigate.

  • http://twitter.com/maxikbal Max Ikbal

    There is probably going to be one more pope after benedict, and he would most likely choose the name peter. After that, world is going to hell in a handbasket. There won’t be any vatican or roman catholicism left.