Who Will Be The Next Pope?

Is the most urgent challenge facing the Church a crisis of faith or a crisis of the institution? That question, framed in an unusual public exchange between two prominent European cardinals last December, may be decisive in choosing the next pope.

But before getting into that—who are the papabili? Those most often mentioned are Cardinals Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels; Pierre Eyt of Bordeaux; Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family; Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris; Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., of Milan; Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid; Christoph Schonborn, O.P., of Vienna; Dionigi Tettamanzi of Genoa; and Miloslav Vlk of Prague.

Ideologically speaking, they are a decidedly mixed group. It is in sorting them out that the question—crisis of faith or crisis of the institution?—becomes crucial. It surfaced in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix in articles by Cardinal Eyt (responding to a talk in Paris the month before by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] ), and Cardinal Ratzinger, responding to Cardinal Eyt. Their words were polite, lofty, and loaded with political nuance.

Cardinal Eyt argued that the Church’s crisis is first a crisis of the institution involving issues that need resolution without “further delay or equivocation.” Citing remarks by Cardinal Martini at last fall’s Synod of Bishops for Europe, he listed the role of women, lay ministries, sexuality, divorce and remarriage, general absolution, relations with the Orthodox, ecumenism, and the relationship of civil and moral law.

Cardinal Ratzinger said the crisis is essentially a crisis of faith affecting the Church and secular society. Citing CDF’s experience in defending against doctrinal challenges concerning the Trinity, Christology, ecclesiology, the papacy, and moral teaching, he said neglecting questions like these would make “an empty shell” of the Church.

Now, what has this got to do with choosing a pope?

A pope who emphasizes a crisis of faith would be in continuity with John Paul II—an evangelizer preaching the Word in contemporary terms to believers and nonbelievers alike. John Paul’s initiatives in this line include the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the current jubilee year, and his frequent pastoral visits. Among the papabili, Cardinals Arinze, Lustiger, and Tettamanzi appear to fit the evangelical mold.

Cardinal Martini is the most visible exponent of the institutional emphasis. Were he to falter in the conclave, his votes might go to Cardinal Danneels or Cardinal Eyt. If, on the other hand, the cardinals wanted a tough conservative, they might well choose someone like Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos or Cardinal Lopez Trujillo.

The new ecclesial movements in the Church are part of the equation; the evangelicals tend to value them highly, the institutionals considerably less. The electors do not want another long pontificate right away; that could rule out Cardinal Schonborn, who, at 55, is the youngest of the group. Nationality and ethnicity may be important. If the cardinals are looking for a pope from the developing nations, Nigerian-born Cardinal Arinze’s stock will soar, as will that of Brazilian-born Cardinal Moreira Neves (unless rumors that he is in declining health are true). No American can be elected, since the cardinals do not care to extend American hegemony to the Apostolic Palace.

As time passes, the list will change—especially if John Paul appoints new cardinals, as he is likely soon to do. But these are the papabili now. In the profiles that follow, their remarks at last fall’s synod are cited to provide a common benchmark of their views.

Francis Cardinal Arinze

Born on November 1, 1932, in Eziowelle, Nigeria, Cardinal Arinze was ordained a priest in 1958. After serving as a seminary professor and as regional secretary for Catholic education for eastern Nigeria, he was named auxiliary bishop of Onitsha in August 1965. He became archbishop in 1967 and continued in that position until 1984.

Pope John Paul then chose him to head the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, now called the Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He was named a cardinal on May 25, 1985. His third-world background and knowledge of Islam are talking points for electing him pope. He has frequently visited the United States.

At the synod, Cardinal Arinze listed four things the Church must do to evangelize a Europe where religious pluralism is growing: “better doctrinal preparation of all Catholics”; training specialists for dialogue with other religions, especially Islam; enlisting religious, cultural, and governmental bodies to defend the religious freedom of Christians in places where the majority religion denies them “reciprocity”; and analyzing the spread of sects and developing a pastoral response. “Interreligious courtesy” should not cause Catholics to play down the fact that the means of salvation are found in their fullness only in the Church, he said.

Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was born on July 4, 1929, in Medellin, Colombia, and was ordained a priest in 1952. He did pastoral work in two parishes, was local director of the Cursillo movement, was delegate for Catholic Action, and taught canon law at the Free Civil University before becoming general secretary of the Colombian bishops’ conference. In 1971, he was named coadjutor bishop of Pereira and, in 1976, became ordinary of the diocese, where he served until 1992.

He was general secretary of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) from 1983 to 1987 and president from 1987 to 1991. Pope John Paul appointed him archbishop of Bucaramanga in 1992. He remained there until 1996, when the pope named him to head the Congregation for the Clergy. He became a cardinal in 1998.

At the synod, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos hammered the point that the Church has always faced the secular world’s resistance to her mission and message. “Was it easy to confront the sexual liberties of Athens, Corinth, and Rome? Was it easy to introduce the sanctity of marriage in the eastern or western pagan world?” he demanded. He added that today’s priest must be a “man of the Church.” In this way, priests will surmount “antihierarchical” tendencies in contemporary Catholicism, whose “puerile and picturesque” elements threaten ecclesial unity.

Godfried Cardinal Danneels

Born in Kanegem in western Flanders on July 4, 1933, Cardinal Danneels was ordained a priest in 1957 and, in 1959, became spiritual director of the major seminary of Bruges. After studying theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, he was professor of liturgy and sacramental theology at Louvain University from 1967 to 1977. He has published articles on the liturgy.

In 1977, Paul VI named him bishop of Antwerp. John Paul transferred him to Mechelen-Brussels in 1979 and named him a cardinal in 1983. He is president of the Belgian bishops’ conference and military ordinary of Belgium. At the time of last fall’s synod, he spoke favorably of Cardinal Martini’s proposal for a collegial assembly of the world’s bishops to wrestle with “knotty problems” in the Church.

In his own intervention, Cardinal Danneels likened western Europe to a garden with “venomous plants”—consumerism, hedonism, “the pride of non serviam“—that nevertheless contain their antidotes. The response to the “insatiable thirst for happiness” is the joyful message of Christ, the response to the fear of death is the resurrection, the response to New Age spirituality is Christian mysticism. If the Church is becoming a minority in many places and suffering losses of personnel, money, power, and prestige, “it could be God is leading us toward a new kind of ‘Babylonian exile’ to teach us to become more humble and to live by the doctrine that grace is all-powerful.”

Pierre Cardinal Eyt

Born in Laruns, France, on June 4, 1934, Cardinal Eyt entered the seminary in Bayonne in 1954. He was ordained a priest in 1961 and received a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University. In 1963, he was named chaplain at the French parish in Rome, St. Louis of France. From 1967 to 1972, he taught theology at the Institut Catholique in Toulouse and served successively as vice rector and rector.

In 1980, he was named a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission and, in 1982, was elected president of the association of French institutes of higher education. His publications include a 1985 volume on the creed. John Paul II named him coadjutor archbishop of Bordeaux in 1986, and in 1989, he became ordinary of the archdiocese. He was named a cardinal in 1994.

Cardinal Eyt’s intervention focused on the “new evangelization.” Its “need and urgency” had become even clearer since the previous European synod in 1991, but how it should be done requires the bishops’ reflection as well as attention to European “signs of the times.” One of these is the widespread assumption that Christianity’s day had passed, leading to “a sort of ‘unconcerned apostasy'” among a majority of Europeans, especially the young. He summed up the attitude in ironic Latin: Anima europaea naturaliter iam non Christiana (“The European soul is now naturally non-Christian”). In this situation, it is not just the “move¬ments” that should engage in evangelization; all Catholics are called to work for the inculturation of the Gospel in the Europe of today and tomorrow.

Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo

Born on November 8, 1935, in Villahermosa, Colombia, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo belongs to a family whose members have included government officials and a bishop. He was ordained a priest in 1960 and studied in Rome at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, and the Teresianum, the Pontifical Institute of Spirituality. Returning to Colombia in 1963, he taught in a seminary and was pastoral coordinator for the 1968 International Eucharistic Congress in Bogota.

He was vicar general of the Bogota archdiocese from 1970 to 1972 and auxiliary bishop from 1971 to 1972. From 1972 to 1978, he was general secretary of CELAM and, from 1979 to 1983, president. He helped organize the 1979 Puebla Conference in which John Paul participated. The pope named him coadjutor archbishop of Medellin in May 1978, and he became archbishop in June 1979. He was named a cardinal in 1983 and, since 1990, has been president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

In his synod intervention, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo spoke of the “systematic demolition of the family in Europe and its alarming effects,” including the current “demographic winter” and the culture of death. In response to the crisis of the family, he recommended “a clear dialogue in the core of society with politicians and lawmakers” along with a pastoral program that is “more incisive and courageous.”

Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger

Aron Lustiger was born on September 17, 1926, in Paris, son of Jewish immigrants who came to France from Poland after World War I. His parents were deported during the Nazi occupation, his mother dying at Auschwitz. Sheltered by a Catholic family in Orleans, he converted to Catholicism in 1940 and took the name Jean-Marie at baptism. Active in the Young Christian Students during his university days, he received degrees in the humanities and philosophy from the Sorbonne and a licentiate in theology from the Institut Catholique.

Ordained a priest in 1954, he was a chaplain to Catholic students at the Sorbonne for 15 years. In 1969, he was named pastor of Ste. Jeanne de Chantal parish, where he carried on special apostolates to young people and the elderly. His homilies attracted large congregations, including many intellectuals. In 1979, responding to an invitation to his priests by Cardinal Francois Marty of Paris, he prepared an analysis of Catholicism in France, arguing that it could no longer be a “Church of power” and should concentrate on evangelizing through the conversion of culture. In November 1979, he was named bishop of Orleans and, in January 1981, archbishop of Paris. He was made a cardinal in 1983.

Cardinal Lustiger said at the synod that theology must remain rooted in Scripture; cut off from that source, it is at risk of atrophying. Were that to happen, not only would theology be the loser, but so would European culture, which received from this source “its most noble ideals and its power to change the conditions of human existence.” It is the bishops’ duty to “make sure that the vitality and originality of the Christian vision of human destiny should not be lacking” in the new Europe.

Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini

Cardinal Martini was born on February 15, 1927, in Turin, entered the Society of Jesus in 1944, and was ordained a priest in 1952 at the age of 25—unusually young for a Jesuit. He graduated summa cum laude in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1958; was a seminary professor in Chieri, Italy, from 1958 to 1961; and then returned to Rome to study Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he again graduated summa cum laude.

He was a professor at the Biblical Institute and its rector from 1969 to 1978. From 1978 to 1979, he served as rector of the Gregorian. In 1978, at the invitation of Pope Paul VI, he preached the annual Lenten retreat for the pope and the curia. He has published a number of works on theological, biblical, and spiritual themes. Pope John Paul appointed him archbishop of Milan in December 1979 and named him a cardinal in 1983.

In his widely noted intervention at the synod, Cardinal Martini expressed “three hopes for the future.” The first was that more Europeans, especially young people, would read and pray the Bible. The second was that the ecclesial “movements” would be integrated into parochial and diocesan pastoral programs. The third hope concerned “the possibility of new and broad experiences of collegiality” involving the bishops of the world in efforts to address and resolve the internal institutional problems of the Church, mentioned previously.

Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves

Cardinal Moreira Neves was born on September 16, 1925, the oldest of ten children, in Sao Joao del Rei, Brazil. Entering the Dominicans at an early age, he studied philosophy from 1945 to 1947, made his vows in 1948, and was ordained a priest in 1950. After pastoral work in Sao Paulo, he was transferred in 1954 to Rio de Janeiro. There he was editor-in-chief of a Catholic magazine called Messenger of the Holy Rosary and head of religious education for the Brazilian bishops’ conference.

In 1967, he was named an auxiliary bishop of Sao Paulo. He served in Rome from 1974 to 1979 as vice president of the Pontifical Commission (now Council) for the Laity. In 1979, he was named an archbishop and appointed secretary of the Congregation for Bishops. John Paul named him archbishop of Sao Salvador de Bahia in 1987. He became a cardinal in 1988. In 1998, the pope recalled him to Rome as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Cardinal Moreira Neves is rumored to be in failing health, but if the rumors are wrong, he is papabile. At the synod, he spoke of the bishops’ role in the new Europe. “It is not a substitution for laypersons: the bishop is not a politician, an economist, a sociologist, an agent of culture. He is the illuminator of the Christian conscience of laypeople deeply committed to the structures and institutions that build the world…. [Bishops] insert Christian and evangelical moral values into the process of European unity,” he said.

Antontio Maria Cardinal Rouco Varela

Born August 24, 1936, in Villalba, Spain, Cardinal Rouco Varela studied at the Mondonedo Seminary, received a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical University of Salamanca, and was ordained a priest in 1959. He did graduate studies in law and theology at the University of Munich and received a doctorate in 1964. Thereafter, he taught fundamental theology and canon law at Mondonedo and was an adjunct professor at Munich. Returning to Spain, he served at the University of Salamanca as professor of ecclesiastical law, vice rector, and rector. He has published articles on theology, canon law, and church-state relations.

Pope Paul VI appointed him auxiliary bishop of Santiago de Compostela in 1976. John Paul II named him archbishop of Santiago de Compostela in 1984 and archbishop of Madrid in June 1994. He became a cardinal in 1998.

At the synod, Cardinal Rouco Varela was relator, or “reporter,” presenting the overview of the theme and summarizing discussions at midpoint. In his opening remarks—criticized by some as too negative—he said that ten years after the collapse of communism, many Europeans were in a “situation of hopelessness,” which he attributed fundamentally to an “immanent humanism” affecting even Christians. The choice for Europeans, he said, comes down to “conversion to the God of our forefathers” or “separation from our religious roots.”

Christoph Cardinal Schonborn

Cardinal Schonborn was born on January 22, 1945, in Skalsko in what is now known as the Czech Republic, but his family fled to Austria in September of that year. Joining the Dominicans in 1963, he was ordained a priest in 1970. From 1973 to 1975, he did pastoral work with students at Graz University. In 1976, he joined the faculty of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where he taught theology until 1991. He was named to the International Theological Commission in 1980.

From 1987 to 1992, he was secretary of the commission responsible for drafting the Catechism of the Catholic Church. John Paul appointed him auxiliary bishop of Vienna in 1991 and coadjutor archbishop in 1995; he became ordinary of the archdiocese in September of that year. He was named a cardinal in 1998.

Although a rising star among the cardinals, Cardinal Schonborn is probably too young to be elected pope. His synod intervention was well-received. He spoke of “three wounds” that need healing—the crimes of communism (“often still veiled in a ‘cloud of unknowing'”), the continued division of the western and eastern Churches and the tendency of the latter to become national churches, and the need for Christians to reach a deeper understanding of “the mystery of Israel.”

Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi

Born in Renate, Italy, on March 14, 1934, Cardinal Tettamanzi was ordained a priest in 1957. In the years that followed, he taught fundamental theology at the major seminary of Lower Venegono and pastoral theology at the Priestly Institute of Mary Immaculate and the Lombard Regional Institute of Pastoral Ministry in Milan, then served as rector of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome.

From 1989 to 1991, he was archbishop of Ancona-Osimo and, from 1991 to 1995, general secretary of the Italian bishops’ conference. Pope John Paul appointed him archbishop of Genoa in April 1995, and he became vice president of the episcopal conference the following month. He was named a cardinal in 1998.

Cardinal Tettamanzi headed the committee that drafted the upbeat closing message of last fall’s synod. In his intervention, he said the Church should address Europe in a spirit of “radical optimism” without losing sight of the continent’s serious problems. The “heart of the pastoral problem” in today’s Europe, he declared, is weak or nonexistent “faith in Jesus Christ” and in this regard the first priority for the Church is to deepen the faith of Christians. “Our most serious missionary problem is not the non-Christians or the unbaptized…. The priority does not lie in ‘baptizing the converted’ but in ‘converting the baptized.” Among other things, he suggested, this requires that the Church be “less preoccupied with herself and her pastoral efficiency and more preoccupied with proclaiming Jesus and his Gospel.”

Miloslav Cardinal Vlk

Cardinal Vlk was born on May 17, 1932, in Lisnice, Bohemia. Finding theological studies impossible under the Communists, he studied archival science and worked in various archives. During the Prague Spring of 1968, he was ordained a priest. But the government soon took a dim view of his popularity and pastoral effectiveness and shunted him off to remote areas of the country for the next decade, finally withdrawing entirely his authorization to function as a priest in 1978. From then until 1989, he worked as a window-washer in Prague, while secretly doing priestly work with small groups.

In 1990, following the Velvet Revolution of the previous year, Pope John Paul named him bishop of Ceske Budeovice. He was appointed archbishop of Prague in March 1991 and named a cardinal in 1994. Since 1993, he has been president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences.

At the synod, Cardinal Vlk spoke of the new ecclesial movements, which he said express the “charismatic dimension” of the Church associated with the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul. The Church needs both her charismatic and her institutional elements, he added. As for the ecclesial movements, although they have sometimes been guilty of “immaturity, intemperance and…deviations,” nevertheless the Holy Spirit is giving the Church “new dynamism and new vitality” through them.

The Final Choice

Although speculation about the next pope certainly will continue, it is important to bear in mind that, always assuming the action of the Holy Spirit, the cardinals will make their decision based on calculations about the needs of the Church as they then appear to them and about the papabili of that moment. Whether John Paul’s successor will concentrate on the crisis of faith or the crisis of the institution and whether he will operate from a progressive, evangelical, or restorationist perspective are questions to provide a framework for a momentous choice.

  • Russell Shaw

    Russell Shaw is the author of Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church (Requiem Press), Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), and other works.

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