The Next Pope Will Be a Fellow New Yorker
- The easiest bet is that the next pope will not be Italian. But not European, African, or Asian ether. For the first time in the bimillennial history of the Church, the successor of Peter could come from the Americas. Or to hazard a more targeted prediction: from the Big Apple.
Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York, 63, is a larger-than-life man from the Midwest with a radiant smile and overflowing vigor, precisely that “vigor of both body and mind” which Joseph Ratzinger recognized he had lost and defined as necessary for his successor, for the sake of properly “governing the barque of Peter and proclaiming the Gospel.”
Dolan is, in doctrine, a dyed-in-the-wool Ratzingerian, and moreover with the gift of being a great communicator. But he is also this in his vision of man and of the world. And in the public role that the Church is called to carry out in society.
In the United States, he is at the head of that team of “affirmative” bishops who have marked the rebirth of the Catholic Church after decades of subjection to the dominant culture and of yielding to the spread of scandal.
In Europe and in North America, the regions of most ancient but declining Christianity, there does not exist today a Church more vital and resurgent than that of the United States. And also more free and critical with respect to worldly powers. The taboo has vanished of an American Catholic Church that identifies itself with the primary global superpower and therefore can never produce a pope.
- On the contrary, what is astonishing about this conclave is that the United States offers not one, but even two true "papabili." Because in addition to Dolan there is the archbishop of Boston, Sean Patrick O'Malley, 69, with the robe and beard of the worthy Capuchin friar.
His belonging to the humble order of St. Francis is not an obstacle to the papacy, nor is it without illustrious precedents, because the great Julius II, the pope of Michelangelo and Raphael, was also a Franciscan.
But what matters most is that Dolan and O'Malley are not two candidates opposed to one another. The vote of the one could converge upon the other, if necessary, because both are bearers of a single plan.
With respect to Dolan, O'Malley has a less resolute profile as far as management abilities are concerned. And this could make him more acceptable to some cardinals, allowing him to cross the decisive threshold of two thirds of the votes, 77 out of 115, that could instead be withheld from the more energetic, and therefore much more feared, archbishop of New York.
- The same reasoning could be applied to a third candidate, the Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet, he as well of solid Ratzingerian background and rich with talents similar to those of Dolan and O'Malley, but even more uncertain and timid than this latter in executive decisions. In a conclave that is focusing many of its expectations on the reordering of the governance of the Church, the candidacy of Ouellet, although taken into consideration by the cardinal electors, appears to be the weakest among the three North Americans.
- When I was an exchange student in Chile, I remember first hearing that the world would end after the election of a black pope. A Lutheran at the time, I dismissed such talk as just another silly Catholic superstition. An American, I thought such talk was racist. Now, I know it to be neither.
Could His Eminence be Petrus Romanus, mentioned in St Malachy's Prophecy of the Popes, "who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people"? This fellow seems to think so — The Coming Black Pope. See also Soloviev's Apocalypse, in which "resistance comes from Pope Peter II, John the Elder, leader of the Orthodox, and Professor Ernst Pauli, representing Protestantism" and under the "pressure of persecution the three churches in this eschatological situation at last unite."