VATICAN CITY (CNS) — French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 69, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is the “proto-deacon” of the College of Cardinals and will be the one, at the end of the conclave, who will announce to the world, “Habemus papam” (“We have a pope”).
The cardinal said he hoped to be able to introduce a new pope who, like Pope Benedict XVI, knows how to teach the Catholic faith to others.
In an interview with the French Catholic agency, I.Media, he was asked about the qualities a new pope should possess.
“Christians must be able to give a reason for their faith with knowledge of the contents of this faith,” the cardinal said.
“He must also be a pope very open to dialogue with cultures and religions,” he added.
When Cardinal Tauran said the next pope really will have to “reform the curia” and promote more coordination among offices, the reporter asked if Pope Benedict hadn’t also set out to do that.
“Yes, but the curia is a big machine. It may need a younger pope,” he said.
Asked the ideal age for the next pope, Cardinal Tauran said, “The ideal age is more or less 65 years … even 70 years if he is in good shape.”
Cardinal Justin Rigali, 77, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, told Knoxnews.com Feb. 25, “Nobody has all of the qualities — everybody’s human, huh? — so they have to find someone who has the most important ones.”
For Cardinal Rigali, the most important qualities include communication, media and language skills to “get his message to the people,” an ability to connect with different kinds of people and the strength to “confront all the issues that affect humanity,” including issues of social justice and the defense of human of life, the cardinal said.
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna told the magazine Profil that the next pope must have the same “basic requirements” Pope Benedict had, particularly the “strength of faith, which enables him to distinguish between the pillars of Catholic doctrine and mere decoration” so that Catholic doctrine remains authentic.
If Catholics believe the church teaches what Christ himself taught and that his teaching brings salvation, no pope can change that teaching without doing serious harm, even if it might make the pope more popular, said the 68-year-old cardinal.
At the same time, he said, “in today’s media world, the pope is the most visible preacher of the faith” and will have a “key role in determining whether people are inspired” by the path the church indicates as the way to friendship with God and ultimately to salvation.
Profil asked Cardinal Schonborn about the lists of potential popes being published around the world — lists that are remarkably similar from one country to another and one publication to another. He described those profiles as “the pope of imaginative reporting.”
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, speaking to The Australian newspaper Feb. 23, referred to St. Teresa of Avila, who reportedly said that when looking for a confessor, she would prefer “a competent theologian” over “a pious fool.”
The cardinal said that in the upcoming conclave he probably would support “not necessarily the most holy person, but the person best equipped for the job,” regardless of nationality.
The Australian wrote, however, “if that person happens to be from the U.S., (Cardinal) Pell believes he would be unlikely to be elected. The reluctance to appoint a pope from the prevailing superpower, he says, dates to the 14th century, when a series of seven popes resided at Avignon in southeastern France, which was then a superpower.”
At a Feb. 11 news conference, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said that when they begin meeting, the cardinals will discuss all sorts of questions, including whether it may be time to look outside Europe for a candidate.
However, he said: “Usually they raise questions first of all in terms of personality: Who can govern the church? Who can teach? Who can sanctify? These are the functions of the papacy, so it matters less where a person is from than whether or not he is capable of being the successor of Peter.”
When asked if the age of the candidates will matter, Cardinal George told reporters in Chicago, “You consider everything.”
The cardinal, who voted in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict, said the general congregations or meetings before the conclave are not political rallies with nominations, but discussions.
“Until you take the first ballot, you don’t know who has strength and who has not,” he said.
Caracol Radio reported that Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota was busy in late February “reviewing the resumes” of the 116 cardinals who are eligible to join him at his first conclave to elect a new pope.
He said the pope needs to be “more human, that is closer to the needs of humanity and the world today.”
Other than that, he said Feb. 25, he still needs more time for prayer, reflection and conversations with the other cardinals because you cannot just “jump on one candidate.”
Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto told Catholic News Service Feb. 26 that the needs of the church and the qualities the next pope will need are matters for discussion in the general congregations that will begin in early March.
“Each cardinal brings his own sense of what are the key issues, but they will be very much determined by where he’s coming from,” so the cardinals must listen to each other before speaking, he said.
Cardinals from Western Europe and North America, he said, see secularization and the new evangelization as the big issues facing the church.
“Holiness and ability and experience” are important, he said. “There are very many cardinals who have all kinds of different gifts and different strengths,” so after the conversations about the church’s needs, the cardinals must reflect on “what particular set of strengths are needed right now for the church.”
Before the cardinals begin meeting, Cardinal Collins said, “I think it’s premature to start speculating on what particular set of qualities are needed.”
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is no longer eligible to vote in a conclave, although he can participate in the discussions beforehand. He said the next pope will need to “a wise man, he has to be a courageous man, but more than anything else he has to be a holy man” to deal with challenges of the modern world.
He will have to know how to interact with young people, because the young “are not going to take direction from someone whom they don’t think loves them,” the cardinal told CNS in Rome.
He also will need “great administrative abilities, because you’re talking about a church of more than a billion people,” the cardinal said.
U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, told CNS, “The new Holy Father should have a broad appreciation of the Catholic world and the different cultures that make it up and be able to foster the spirituality of those different cultures.”
“We’ve been blessed with such wonderful popes through the last hundred years, and I think whoever comes in, if he could combine all those qualities that we’ve had the pleasure of seeing in our past popes, I think that would be a wonderful development,” Cardinal O’Brien said.
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— By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service .Contributing to this story was Lauren Colegrove at the Vatican.