Sunday, April 17, 2005

Papal conclave: three articles

Cardinals Align as Time Nears to Select Pope

Laurie Goodstein and Ian Fisher

New York Times 16 April 2005

ROME, April 16 - There was never doubt that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's hard-line defender of the faith, would have a strong hand in selecting the next pope. But in the days of prayer and politics before the conclave, which begins on Monday, he has emerged as perhaps the surprise central figure: the man who could become the 265th pope, choose him or be the one other cardinals knock from the running.
Any talk of who will become the next pope is guesswork, echoes from cardinals and their staffs sworn to silence about one of the world's most elite and secretive gatherings.
But one bit of wisdom has emerged in the Italian press as conventional: that Cardinal Ratzinger, a German close to John Paul II, has up to 50 votes among the 115 elector cardinals, or at least that is the strength his supporters claim.
That is short of the two-thirds, or 77 votes, needed in the early stages of voting. Still, he appears to command the largest and most cohesive block, and at a minimum, it seems unlikely that the next pope will be chosen without his blessing.
But interviews with more than a dozen Vatican experts and church officials suggest that forces are lining up against Cardinal Ratzinger - who, at 78, may be judged too old, too uncharismatic and, perhaps most important, too rigid to hold together a polarized church that is a billion people strong.
Some believe the church needs a more moderate man, a less authoritarian leader or one from outside of Europe.
"Ratzinger represents continuity - he was the right-hand man of the pope," said Giuseppe De Carli, head of Italian public television's Vatican bureau, who in recent years has interviewed most of 115 cardinals who will begin the secretive process of selecting the new pope on Monday.
"But the cardinals need both continuity and discontinuity," he added. "They can't create a pope that will be the photocopy of the preceding one."
Some experts say that is precisely the problem: that Cardinal Ratzinger has ambitions higher than being a photocopy of John Paul.
Based on Cardinal Ratzinger's record and pronouncements, his agenda seems clear. Inside the church, he would like to impose more doctrinal discipline, reining in priests who experiment with liturgy or seminaries that permit a broad interpretation of doctrine. Outside, he would like the church to assert itself more forcefully against the trend he sees as most threatening: globalization leading eventually to global secularization.
But some cardinals worry that it is healing, not confrontation, that the church needs. Most cardinals eligible to vote are now refusing media interviews - a consequence of the media blackout the cardinals decided to impose eight days ago. But some are talking on background to Vatican colleagues, church scholars, leaders of Catholic organizations and to Italian journalists who specialize in covering the Vatican. The New York Times spoke with several cardinals and more than a dozen people in recent contact with the cardinals. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The top candidate of the forces opposing the Ratzinger bloc appears to be Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, who could also have a chance of peeling off a few votes from the Ratzinger camp. His profile offers a little something for each flank. A conservative moral theologian who has written on bioethics, he collaborated with John Paul on the encyclical laying out the justifications for opposing abortion, birth control and euthanasia.
In recent years, however, Cardinal Tettamanzi has began to sound off on issues of poverty and social justice. When protesters went to Genoa, Italy, for the Group of 8 summit meeting of industrialized nations in 2001, he spoke to the crowd on the evils of globalization.
Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for L'Espresso magazine, said the cardinal could unite conservatives and liberals. "He is an exponent of compromise, but a real honest conservative," Mr. Magister said.
The interviews suggest that the standard-bearer for the liberals among the anti-Ratzinger forces is, at least for the moment, the retired archbishop of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini. There is a strange sort of symmetry to the two men: both are 78-year-old scholars with stratospheric intellects who command the respect of their colleagues.
But Cardinal Martini appears to control far fewer votes. He has said he has not ruled out changes to priestly celibacy or the bans on contraception and on women serving as deacons. He has a form of Parkinson's disease and, unlike Cardinal Ratzinger, is not considered an active candidate. Experts say that while he respects Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Martini does not support his vision of the church.
"Martini," said Alberto Melloni, a papal historian, "thinks that if the church does not move on in terms of doctrine, it is condemned to lose the content of Christian truth."
If the cardinals could start from scratch and order up the perfect pope, the candidate to lead the Roman Catholic Church of 2005 might look like this:
Charismatic and basically conservative. Intellectual but accessible. Speaks Italian, Spanish and English. Not too old, not too young, since the cardinals want neither a 26-year papacy like John Paul's nor a pope who will be bedridden in two or three years. A pastor, but one familiar with Vatican bureaucracy. Someone willing to let local bishops go their own way - within limits. Perhaps he would be from the third world, where the church is growing, but he has ties to Europe and could reinvigorate the flagging faith there.
Holding this template against the men in the running gives some clues, with the caution that the candidate who comes closest does not necessarily win. Politicking will also play a major role - and at this moment the central player is indisputably Cardinal Ratzinger.
A close associate of John Paul for nearly 30 years, he has a soft voice, a shy manner and a full head of white hair. Friends say that he gets wrongly portrayed as "God's Rottweiler" and that he is actually a warm and spiritual man.
"In the last months of John Paul's papacy, Ratzinger was visible as the supporting column of the church, and so they are following him," Mr. Magister said.
Several church sources said Cardinal Ratzinger had the support of an international array of cardinals, including Francis George of Chicago; Christoph Schönborn of Austria; Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina; Camillo Ruini and Angelo Scola of Italy; and Marc Ouellet of Quebec.
But some cardinals said in interviews before this week that he might centralize power even more than John Paul, just when many cardinals are hoping for their local dioceses to have a greater say in their affairs.
Cardinal Martini's progressive bloc could not wield enough votes to block Cardinal Ratzinger. But the opposition is being joined, several Vatican watchers said, by other groups, in particular a group of Italian cardinals, who by several accounts include Angelo Sodano, John Paul's last secretary of state, and Giovanni Battista Re, who had been in charge of bishops under the late pope.
The members of the Ratzinger contingent are well aware that their candidate may lose, and so are ready to shift their votes. The most obvious backup, several experts said, is Cardinal Ruini, the vicar of Rome.
He is as a forceful figure in Italian politics, opposing rights for gays and lesbians and some forms of assisted reproduction, and supporting immigrants' rights.
But he faces the opposition of those Italian cardinals supporting Cardinal Tettamanzi, so other Ratzinger protégés could emerge.
One is Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, a conservative Jesuit who early in his career distanced himself from proponents of liberation theology. Born to Italian parents, he could be a bridge between Latin America and Europe.
A second is Cardinal Scola, patriarch of Venice, a scholar and a tireless pastor. He has spotless conservative credentials, softened by a grass-roots style.
Another is Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna. An aristocrat, he has often made lists of potential popes because of his intellect, language skills and conservatism, but his administrative skills may seem lacking.
The Latin American cardinals, with 18 percent of the cardinal electors, match the strength of the Italians. But they do not all share the same vision of the church's needs. Nor, it seems, are they all rooting for the home team.
Alejandro Bermúdez, the Peruvian editor in chief of ACI Prensa, a Catholic news agency in Latin America, said those prelates held no conviction that the next pope must be from Latin America. "They would not be opposed to it," he said, "but at this time it is not their priority."
Still, several Latin Americans were frequently mentioned as strong candidates: Cardinal Bergoglio; Claudio Hummes of Brazil, a progressive who moved to the right; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, a conservative on social issues.
Also mentioned were Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, who at 62 may be considered too young, and Juan Sandoval Iñíguez, 72, archbishop of Guadalajara.
With so many candidates and so much apparent division, another familiar situation is looking more and more possible.
In the last conclave in 1978, Vatican-watchers had concocted lists of potential popes 20 to 30 names long, hoping that would cover all the possibilities. But Karol Wojtyla, the cardinal from Poland who became Pope John Paul II after three days, made practically none of them.
"Do not underestimate the power of the microculture that is generated among the cardinals when they are together," said Mr. Bermúdez, the Peruvian editor. "The kind of reflections that end up influencing them are completely unpredictable."

Papal hopeful is a former Hitler Youth

Justin Sparks, Munich, John Follain and Christopher Morgan, Rome

Sunday Times 17 April 2005

THE wartime past of a leading German contender to succeed John Paul II may return to haunt him as cardinals begin voting in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow to choose a new leader for 1 billion Catholics.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose strong defence of Catholic orthodoxy has earned him a variety of sobriquets — including "the enforcer", "the panzer cardinal" and "God’s rottweiler" — is expected to poll around 40 votes in the first ballot as conservatives rally behind him.
Although far short of the requisite two-thirds majority of the 115 votes, this would almost certainly give Ratzinger, 78 yesterday, an early lead in the voting. Liberals have yet to settle on a rival candidate who could come close to his tally.
Unknown to many members of the church, however, Ratzinger’s past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service with a German army anti- aircraft unit.
Although there is no suggestion that he was involved in any atrocities, his service may be contrasted by opponents with the attitude of John Paul II, who took part in anti-Nazi theatre performances in his native Poland and in 1986 became the first pope to visit Rome’s synagogue.
"John Paul was hugely appreciated for what he did for and with the Jewish people," said Lord Janner, head of the Holocaust Education Trust, who is due to attend ceremonies today to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
"If they were to appoint someone who was on the other side in the war, he would start at a disadvantage, although it wouldn’t mean in the long run he wouldn’t be equally understanding of the concerns of the Jewish world."
The son of a rural Bavarian police officer, Ratzinger was six when Hitler came to power in 1933. His father, also called Joseph, was an anti-Nazi whose attempts to rein in Hitler’s Brown Shirts forced the family to move home several times.
In 1937 Ratzinger’s father retired and the family moved to Traunstein, a staunchly Catholic town in Bavaria close to the Führer’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden. He joined the Hitler Youth aged 14, shortly after membership was made compulsory in 1941.
He quickly won a dispensation on account of his training at a seminary. "Ratzinger was only briefly a member of the Hitler Youth and not an enthusiastic one," concluded John Allen, his biographer.
Two years later Ratzinger was enrolled in an anti-aircraft unit that protected a BMW factory making aircraft engines. The workforce included slaves from Dachau concentration camp.
Ratzinger has insisted he never took part in combat or fired a shot — adding that his gun was not even loaded — because of a badly infected finger. He was sent to Hungary, where he set up tank traps and saw Jews being herded to death camps. He deserted in April 1944 and spent a few weeks in a prisoner of war camp.
He has since said that although he was opposed to the Nazi regime, any open resistance would have been futile — comments echoed this weekend by his elder brother Georg, a retired priest ordained along with the cardinal in 1951.
"Resistance was truly impossible," Georg Ratzinger said. "Before we were conscripted, one of our teachers said we should fight and become heroic Nazis and another told us not to worry as only one soldier in a thousand was killed. But neither of us ever used a rifle against the enemy."
Some locals in Traunstein, like Elizabeth Lohner, 84, whose brother-in-law was sent to Dachau as a conscientious objector, dismiss such suggestions. "It was possible to resist, and those people set an example for others," she said. "The Ratzingers were young and had made a different choice."
In 1937 another family a few hundred yards away in Traunstein hid Hans Braxenthaler, a local resistance fighter. SS troops repeatedly searched homes in the area looking for the fugitive and his fellow conspirators.
"When he was betrayed and the Nazis came for him, Braxenthaler shot himself because he knew he couldn’t escape," said Frieda Meyer, 82, Ratzinger’s neighbour and childhood friend. "Even though they had tortured him in Dachau concentration camp he refused to give up his resistance efforts."
Despite question marks over Ratzinger’s wartime conduct, the main obstacle to his prospects in the conclave — the assembly of cardinals to elect the new pope — is the conservative stance he has adopted as guardian of Catholic orthodoxy since John Paul named him to head the congregation for the doctrine of the faith in 1981.
His condemnations are legion — of women priests, married priests, dissident theologians and homosexuals, whom he has declared to be suffering from an "objective disorder".
He upset many Jews with a statement in 1987 that Jewish history and scripture reach fulfilment only in Christ — a position denounced by critics as "theological anti-semitism". He made more enemies among other religions in 2000, when he signed a document, Dominus Jesus, in which he argued: "Only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation".
Some of his staunchest critics are in Germany. A recent poll in Der Spiegel, the news magazine, showed opponents of a Ratzinger papacy outnumbered supporters by 36% to 29%.
As one western cardinal who was in two minds about him put it: "He would probably be a great pope, but I have no idea how I would explain his election back home."
One liberal theologian,when asked what he thought of a Ratzinger papacy, was more direct: "It fills me with horror."

Cardinals Finish Preparations for Conclave

By Daniel J WatkinNew York Times April 17, 2005

ROME, April 16 - The cooks and elevator operators have been sworn to secrecy. A smokestack has been placed on the Sistine Chapel's roof. And on Saturday, the cardinals who will elect Pope John Paul II's successor held their last formal meeting.
Most details have been tied up ahead of Monday's conclave, the secret gathering of the princes of the church that will end when white smoke emerges to signal that they have chosen a new pope.
Saturday was also the end of the official nine days of mourning for John Paul that began with his funeral on April 8. And the cardinals watched as John Paul's Fisherman's Ring, a symbol of the papacy, was destroyed.
Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, said the cardinals had conducted their final gathering Saturday morning in an atmosphere of "great familiarity."
Dr. Navarro-Valls said no individual candidates for the papacy were discussed during the meetings. But several cardinals, their aides and Vatican analysts have all said that such discussions were liberally taking place outside the meetings.
After the cardinals move into their sequestered residence during the conclave, Santa Marta, on Sunday, they will have dinner together there, the spokesman said.
Dr. Navarro-Valls said the cardinals' procession into the Sistine Chapel on Monday would be televised by the Vatican, along with their taking the oath of secrecy and obedience to the rules of papal succession.
He said Vatican security officials had ensured that there would be no leaks about the highly secretive proceedings, and hinted that measures had been taken to prevent cellphone reception. "Try testing them when you go into the Sistine Chapel," he told reporters who were later given a special tour on Saturday.
And in fact, cellphones did not work, as they usually do. A Swiss guard said a jamming device had been placed under the platform floor in the chapel.
A three-foot-high metal stove that is used to burn the ballots, with the dates of past conclaves etched on its surface, sat in the front part of the chapel. Scaffolding held the bright copper stove pipe that will emit black or white smoke to signal the election's outcome. Another device that looked like a more modern stove sat next to it and was connected to the stove pipe, apparently to speed up the movement of smoke. Two fire extinguishers stood nearby.
On Friday, workers installed a narrow smokestack on the roof to be linked to the stove pipe.
Staff members and others involved in the conclave took an oath of secrecy the same day.
They included important clerics but also priests assigned to hear the cardinals' confessions, waiters and cleaning staff, the bus drivers shuttling the cardinals between Santa Marta and the Sistine Chapel, and elevator operators who will bring the cardinals to the chapel.


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