Interregnum report, March 5
Welcome to the first of our regular conclave updates. We’ll be rounding up items of interest, from various sources, for the duration. As ever, you’re welcome to comment (subject to our usual guidelines) or point us to the pertinent links we might have missed.
For now it’s morning-sessions-only in Rome, with the Vatican having announced there will be no meetings Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. In a sign the election is nearing, the Sistine Chapel is as of this moment closed to pilgrims and tourists, but some say that preparing the chapel for the conclave will take at least seven more days – and that the general pace of things looks to be slow and deliberate.
A number of reports have noted the pre-conclave discussions centering on governance of the Roman Curia in light of ongoing scandals, and the stated request of some cardinals to see the secret “VatiLeaks” dossier. John Thavis provides a good synopsis, while also touching on a question many are asking: Why, three weeks after Benedict’s resignation, are there still some cardinals who haven’t yet managed to make it to Rome? Scroll down in the same story for his list of late arrivals.
(As it happens, we’ve also just posted Thomas J. Reese’s review of Thavis’s The Vatican Diaries here.)
On the horse-race front, Aljazeera and other outlets note what they call a “push” for Brazil’s Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo, to be the next pope. Said to work in his favor: He leads the third-largest congregation in the world in the largest Catholic country in the world; he’s of mixed Brazilian and German heritage, which would appease both the developing world and European wings of the church; he’s familiar with the inner workings of the hierarchy, having spent seven years at the Vatican; and at 63 he’s relatively young (and—wait for it—he tweets, under the handle of @DomOdiloScherer). John Allen reports that Scherer could be part of an envisioned South America ticket with Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as secretary of state. Still, most observers say there is no noticeable coalescing around any single candidate the way there was for Joseph Ratzinger eight years ago. Maybe these students in Alexandria, Va., will prove more prescient than the experts.
At National Catholic Reporter, Joshua J. McElwee has a piece on the issues the new “global theologian in chief” will have to face, with interviews of professors of theology from around the world. At Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo writes on three electors in the context of American Catholicism’s growth in Texas and southern California and how the shifts from the traditional power centers of the northeast might come into play in selecting the next pope. (And what’s it like being Rocco, anyway? See this profile on the blogger.) Speaking of southern California: Cardinal Roger Mahony, in Rome, has given an interview to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in which he defends his record on dealing with sexual abuse in the church.
And though these come a little late in the cycle, they’re worth a look if only for comparison’s sake: competing ads for the open position of pontiff, one from Joshua E. Keating at Foreign Policy, the other from Mark Silk at Religion News Service. At McSweeny’s, John Ortved posts a cover letter for his application; spot the potentially disqualifying misstep in the salutation.