Looking Ahead


The death of Pope John Paul II has unleashed an outpouring of grief and gratitude for a man who may well have been the most widely recognizable human being of our time. This pope’s virtually unparalleled charisma and productivity and the length of his reign will likely rank his pontificate among the most influential in church history. Studies on the contributions of Pope John Paul II and his impact on the church will engage theologians and church historians for decades to come.

In the midst of this widespread mourning it is inevitable that the world will also be looking to the future. By the time this article appears we may already have a new pope. Over the weeks and months ahead there will be much discussion regarding items that ought to appear on a new papal agenda. Many will hope for a spiritual clone of John Paul II, a pope who will continue to encourage a robust and evangelical Catholicism capable of confronting the insidious relativism of our age. Others will wish for a pope with the courage to change Catholic teachings they find troubling. We will surely hear more, as we probably should, about issues that still rankle the church politic (at least in North America): women’s ordination, mandatory priestly celibacy, and homosexuality.

I harbor my own “wish list” for our new pope. Yet perhaps our hopes and prayers ought to leave more room for the work of the Spirit and focus less on...

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About the Author

Richard R. Gaillardetz is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College. His books include: Keys to the Council:  Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II (co-authored with Catherine Clifford, Liturgical Press, 2012), When the Magisterium Intervenes (editor, Liturgical Press, 2012), Ecclesiology for a Global Church:  A People Called and Sent (Orbis, 2008) and The Church in the Making (Paulist, 2006).