Page 1, 23rd May 1997

23rd May 1997
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Page 1, 23rd May 1997 — Ratzinger: what next for the papacy?

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Organisations: Second Vatican Council
Locations: Milan, Brussels, ROME


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Ratzinger: what next for the papacy?

'Kingmaker' Cardinal predicts reform


CARDINAL RATZINGER, the Pope's right-hand man in the Vatican, has suggested that John Paul II's successor should be a reforming Pope. At the launch of his two new books, the Cardinal delivered a series of coded messages to the future conclave as to the nature of the next Pope.

He is viewed as being able to do this because he is not a candidate himself, but rather a kingmaker.

Picking up the lead, Italian newspaper La Repubblica interpreted the Cardinal's text and speech to mean that the next Pope will be prepared "above all to reform the Papacy".

The newspaper argued that the present papacy was like an absolute monarchy, in which the Pope ruled supreme, and which was "very different from the spiritual leader of a Christian community of the first centuries".

When Cardinal Ratzinger brought up the Pope's last encyclical, outlining reformist and ecumenical intentions yet said, "today, one cannot reform" the prelate was "clearly leaving the job to John Paul's successor".

The Cardinal refused to rule out the possibility of optional celibacy for the clergy; he talked of priestly celibacy as something "not set in stone".

When the Cardinal said he envisaged bishops one day nullifying marriages without recourse to Rome, he was not merely hinting at a future relaxation of the Church's attitude to such questions. He also meant that reforms would be in favour of greater episcopal collegiality, and hence democracy, within the Church, whose bishops have long grumbled about an overcentralised administration.

And when he was harshly critical of liturgical reforms brought in by Paul VI, Cardinal Ratzinger was not attacking that Pope so much as the theologians and bishops who wanted to consider Paul VI's liturgical reforms as marking a revolutionary break with the past.

"Dusting down arguments 30 years old," La Repubblica wrote, "Cardinal Ratzinger is now saying: don't get any ideas that the conclave will give an opportunity for the revolutionaries of the Second Vatican Council to seek their revenge, in an anti-John Paul II context."

What Cardinal Ratzinger does not say is who the likely candidates actually are.

The man who most quickly comes to mind is Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, an august and heavyweight theologian, who enjoys immense popular appeal as well as respect, who regularly tops the ratings of cardinals considered to be papabili.

He was 70 in February, making him the ideal age for a successor to what is already an exceptionally long papacy John Paul II, who became Pontiff in 1978, last month overtook Innocent LII in the longevity ratings, climbing to 14th place out of a total so far of 264 popes.

But one candidate can be chosen because cardinals vote against others, and as one insider put it: "Martini is a good man, but one who has too many enemies. He is too liberal."He is also a Jesuit and no Jesuit has ever become Pope.

Another front-runner would be Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Brussels. His only problem however is that he is no ball of fire.

"Daneels," one insider said this week, "is about as lively as a turnip. It is up to the Cardinals to choose. And it is not for a ball of fire."

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