Last thoughts on the papabili before the “Extra omnes!”
By John Trungove
As I write, the Cardinals are arriving for the Mass for the election of the pope (Pro Eligendo Papa).
Presiding at this Mass will be Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Sodano is over 80 and will not join the cardinals going into the Sistine Chapel for the conclave. His last opportunity to influence the cardinal electors will be in his homily.
No doubt there will be close attention paid to the words of Cardinal Sodano. However, that is the last that any of us will have to contribute to the conclave, except through prayer.
The last two days before the conclave produced heightened speculation about the cardinals most likely to attract votes. Cardinal Scola remains the front-runner, subject to the blocking capacity of his opponent, Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State and Camerlengo.
Cardinal Bertone’s presumed nominee, Cardinal Scherer, is still the subject of media attention.
An interesting dark horse has emerged. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka is said to have “dozens” of supporters among the cardinals. He is fluent in a large number of languages and has curial and diplomatic experience. It is to men such as him that a divided conclave might turn.
With several cardinals having ties to Communione e Liberazione or CL, a leading lay ecclesial movement within the Italian church, a brief examination of this body is appropriate.
The movement was founded by Don Luigi Giussani in Milan in 1954. It followed a different path from the old “Catholic Action”, opposing communism and secularism in different ways and seeking a greater role for the Church in Italian society. Catholic Action was the old lay movement fostered by the Italian bishops and its followers were reluctant to be directly involved in Italian politics. Communione e Liberazione did not have such reservations.
Catholic Action reflected the Catholic church in Italy up to the time of Paul VI. Communione e Liberazione is an example of the new lay movements, strong on evangelisation and direct involvement in political affairs, concerned also to preserve and promote Catholic culture. The two have been portrayed as perennial rivals, which is more a question of perception.
Communione e Liberazione was encouraged publicly by Paul VI in 1975 and received canonical recognition in 1982, under John Paul II, a strong supporter of the movement. Another firm friend was Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI. Ratzinger presided at Don Giussani’s funeral mass in Milan in early 2005.
Among current cardinals with ties to the movement are Cardinals Scola, Caffarra, Oullet, Schönborn, Bagnasco, Betori and Bergoglio. These affinities guarantee a level of support for Scola or whichever cardinal in the group replaces him in the voting as the conclave proceeds.
Our musings concerning the conclave and its outcome will evaporate once outsiders are ejected from the Sistine Chapel in a few hours. Then speculation will turn to explanation of the successive failed votes should the conclave continue beyond the first two days.