Before retreating from media, cardinals list qualities for next pope

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saying they needed time for serious prayer and reflection, the world's cardinals stopped talking to the press, but only after giving them an almost endless list of qualities they said they would look for in a future pope.

In interviews up to Pope John Paul II's funeral April 8, the last day they gave interviews, they also listed the challenges the next pope would have to help the church face.

Then, April 11 the cardinals issued a plea for intense prayer to support them as they enter the conclave.

The personal qualities they had listed in interviews before Pope John Paul's funeral were very general: a prayerful man with pastoral experience who knows how to listen and to communicate the truths of faith in word and example.

The challenges he will be called to help the church face, the cardinals said, are much more specific: the growth of secularism in the world's richest countries; moral relativism; the ethical challenges of new biotechnologies; relations with Islam and other major world religions; the continuing gap between the world's rich and poor; and collegiality or the relationship between local bishops and the Vatican.

Another reason for the cardinals' request for prayer and for time away from television cameras was that the College of Cardinals is a diverse group; with the exception of top Vatican officials, very few cardinals knew even half of the 115 men who would enter the conclave.

"At present, I couldn't put many names to faces," Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said April 7.

And, as Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit put it, "We did not come out of cookie cutters, and that is a great gift for the church."

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington told reporters the church must confront crises "of faith, of indifference and of apathy" by proclaiming that living the beatitudes is the path to true happiness.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, England, said, "The question is how do you live Christianity in today's secular culture."

"The Catholic Church has to find new ways to touch people," he said.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles suggested the cardinals would be attracted by a cardinal who was shepherding a lively, growing church and could bring that energy to areas of the world where Catholic practice has been in decline.

Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon said the next pope must be able to communicate the Gospel by living it in a way others find attractive.

"There's no more room for a Christian to stay hidden" or confined to "the inside of the church," he said. "Paying witness (everywhere) is inevitable, and Pope John Paul II understood that."

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago also listed "aggressive secularism" as a problem the church must face.

He said the next pope must be a man of deep faith who knows how to show people how Gospel truths apply to their real lives, problems and questions.

Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Lviv, like Cardinal O'Brien, cited declining moral standards as a worldwide problem that needs creative pastoral outreach and convincing ways of preaching and teaching.

Cardinal Husar said, "Addressing the problem of morality is not a matter of reciting rules, rules, rules, but of helping people to do God's will."

Cardinal O'Brien said, "We now need to re-Christianize the world and the church, so Christ's followers will be as he wanted them."

Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney said the inroads made by the "culture of death" on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and contraception highlight the need for a pope with a clear moral voice.

Pope John Paul "was accepted as a human being and accepted as a moral leader" by people of different religions and by the rich as well as the poor, Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta said.

The next pope, he said, will have to have an ability to bridge religious, ethnic and social divides and to communicate with people of different cultures.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, said the next pope should be "an intelligent person who can provide good leadership and a critical look at issues."

If he cannot communicate with a diverse church and a diverse world, he said, he cannot lead.

"There's no greater way of showing appreciation for people's culture than being able to speak a few words in their language," he said.

Looking beyond the confines of the church and evangelization, many cardinals said that the promotion of dialogue and tolerance with followers of Islam was a major challenge facing the church.

Cardinal Pell said the next pope must continue efforts to keep a dialogue open with Muslims and find ways to support the moderate current of Islam.

The late pope, he said, refused to be "crusader-in-chief," and that spirit of respect must continue.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said dialogue with Islam was not simply a religious concern, but could have a positive influence on how Western society deals with the Islamic world "in terms of economics, in terms of aid, in human terms."

Dialogue is "a matter of urgency for the sake of peace in our world," the English cardinal said.

Several cardinals also hinted at the need for greater dialogue, cooperation and collegiality within the Catholic Church, particularly in acknowledging that the faith life of most Catholics is parish- and diocesan-based.

Focusing on local parishes, Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York said, is "what is going to gain us vocations, increased numbers -- gain us unity."

Cardinal Pell said he did not think the relationship between the Vatican and local bishops was a key concern of the cardinals, although "a little bit of coordination, perhaps discipline in the curia, would be advantageous."

Mainly, though, the cardinals seemed to be looking for help from the Holy Spirit in choosing a prayerful, committed Catholic who could bring his own style and gifts to the church.

"None of us do very well playing roles and so, whoever it is, I would hope he would come right in and be himself," Cardinal Egan said.


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