Choosing Pope Benedict’s Successor

(Article No. 9 – The Vincent Times)
February 15, 2013


The Catholic Church and the rest of the world was in a state of disbelief when Pope Benedict XVI announced on February 11 his resignation which is set to take effect  on February 28  citing as reason “fragility that comes with old age.” That disbelief has now turned to acceptance and preparations are being done for the eventual exit of the pontiff.

The resignation of the current head of the Catholic Church  marks the sixth time that a pope voluntarily steps down.  Conventionally, the reign of  a Roman pontiffs is from election until death but Pope Benedict XVI decided to quit the papacy admitting that he no longer has the strength that it requires. He assured those who were present in his regular week appearance in the Vatican City audience hall that he decided to file  his resignation in full freedom for the benefit of the church.

The Next Pontiff

At 8:01 on February 28, the Roman See would be  vacant and  the College of Cardinals must immediately convene to select a successor. The cardinals will meet in a conclave to decide who will replace Pope Benedict XVI and such must be done within 20 days after the pope’s resignation.

The Vatican hinted that a new pope would be chosen towards the end of March in time for the celebration of Easter.

There are speculations that the next pontiff might come from either Africa or Latin America and no longer from Europe where the Catholic faith is seemingly in a downtrend. True enough, three of the four who are considered as front-runners for the position are non-Europeans namely Canadian Cardinal Marc Quellet, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, an Argentinian, and Cardinal Peter  Turkson of Ghana. The only European in the list is Cardinal Angelo Scola, an Italian.

What Awaits the New Pope

The new pope will be greeted by the challenges and issues that have been bugging the Catholic Church. Foremost of these issues is the battery of pedophilia and sex abuse cases some Catholic priests are facing in different parts of the world. Records show that there have been criminal prosecutions of those found guilty of abuse. There were also civil lawsuits against the church’ dioceses and parishes where the guilty priests were serving.

This could have contributed to the dwindling number of Catholics in many parts of the world.

In addition to the aforementioned, the Catholic Church also has to contend with other social issues like same-sex marriage, the use of contraceptives, legalized abortion and  environmental degradation.

All these are issues that await the coming of the new pope. How would the Pope lead the church to stem the tide against the onslaught of moral deprivation remains to be seen.

The authority of the church have never been so challenged as it is now.  Even its members would find it difficult to heed the call of their clergies  to abide by the moral precepts the Catholic Church stand for.

Setting an Age Limit for the Pontificate

At the heels of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to quit,   the College of Cardinals may consider enacting rules that will set an age limit for a pontiff to stay in his position.

It should be remembered that in the years before his death in 2005, there were calls for the resignation of Pope John Paul II due to failing health brought about by old age  but officials in the Vatican rejected the proposition. Then came Pope Benedict XVI resignation due to old age and poor health, a decision Vatican was not able to prevent.

Much as cardinals are ineligible to  join a conclave to cast a vote when they turn 80, some are saying that this could also be the age when incumbent popes must resign.

There is also an existing practice in the Catholic Church that a bishop of a diocese must offer his resignation, if asked to,  upon completion of his seventy-fifth year of age. This could be followed when setting the age limit for the highest leader of the church.

The Last Pope?

The talk about doomsday has suddenly come alive again after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

There was an Irish archbishop named St. Malachy who issued a prophecy in 1139 that there would only be 112 more popes before the coming of the Final Judgment. Curiously, Pope Benedict XVI is 111, the next is the last if the prophecy is to be believed.

What’s remarkable in the said prophecy is that the brief description he attributed to the popes who would occupy the highest seat in the Vatican are almost exact.

St. Malachy even  prophecied that 112th pope would be named “Petrus Romanus” or Peter the Roman.” But while tradition has it that no pope can take the name Peter II one of the front runners in the search for  the new pontiff, as previously mentioned, is Peter.


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