Meet the Papabili! :-)

Three days after Vatican Palace officials announced the impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a list of possible contenders for the next Vicar of Christ and Successor to the throne of St.Peter was released by leading newspapers in the world. The Conclave (gathering of cardinals around the world to elect the next pope) is believed to occur in the middle of March this year.

The only people who can elect the next pope are Cardinals also called the Princes of the Universal Church.

The Papabili or potential Popes mentioned came from different countries. Although no specific criteria had established by the Vatican to choose the next Pope, the ideal candidate for the next Roman Pontiff should always be someone who has the competence and devotion to spread and promote international understanding, peace, solidarity, Christian values, good news of the gospel and someone who can staunchly defend and uphold the scriptural traditions, practices and laws of the universal church.

In the past Conclave, mysterious circumstances, wisdom and piousness became the basis of the selection. The manner of selection is one of the best kept secrets of the Vatican. It was never divulged and should never be. The media has no access on how each candidate is voted and selected. 


The Conclave is held in the Sistine Chapel (one of the most beautiful and grandest chapels in the world where the ceiling was personally designed by Michaelangelo) within the Vatican walls and the moment the Cardinals entered the place all doors are closed and will only open the moment a new pope is elected. A smoke that passes through the chimney of the chapel will serve as signal to the outsiders. A black smoke means the deliberation is on going while a white smoke means voting is finished and a pontiff is selected. 

The staff assigned to take care the Cardinals during the duration of the Conclave will be under the oath of secrecy and any leaks made by them will means excommunication from the Catholic Church. The area is searched thoroughly ensuring no hidden camera or recording devices are installed, the place where the cardinals gathered for deliberation is extremely exclusive. 


As soon as the Cardinals entered the Conclave, the atmosphere turned into a deafening silence until they meet for the deliberation. Each will cast his vote according to conscience and meditation. Cardinals take their place in a room called "cell" and meditate who to vote. Each reportedly will listen intently to a "voice" from the depth of their heart. Interception of the Holy Spirit is crucial in the selection so the Princes of the Church searched for a divine intervention the moment they cast their vote and most of the time, Cardinals know from their heart who is the "chosen one" by the Holy Spirit.


The Conclave is believed to have invisibly guided by the Holy Spirit and had helped the Cardinals decide who is the right person to be the "chosen one", there were two mysterious occurrences happened that thoroughly concluded the Holy Spirit is present during the selection. 

In the 1903 Conclave, while the Cardinals were in deep thoughts pondering who to vote, a DOVE suddenly appeared from no where and hovered above the head of Giuseppe Sarto, an Italian Cardinal. Everyone was surprised as the place was fully closed and secured. A staff within the chapel was called to take the dove out. When it was made sure the door was closed the cardinals continued the deliberation and again the same dove (which was already put outside with no impossible way to get in) hovered above the head of Cardinal Sarto. The Cardinals got the message immediately and elected Sarto. We all know that the Holy Spirit is depicted by a DOVE.

In 1978, when the Cardinals gathered again for another Conclave to elect the successor of Pope John Paul I, the cardinals noticed a soft light coming from the cell of Karol Josef Wojtyla, a Cardinal from Krakow, Poland. He was not popular in that Conclave because he was the youngest among the Cardinals and came from a Communist country, but the Princes of the Church saw greatness in him and guided by the Holy Spirit secured the votes on the second balloting and later proclaimed John Paul II.


St. Pius X

Cardinal Sarto became Pius X. Before his election, Sarto was noted with his deeply religious and extremely pious life, when he became a Pope, he made sure orthodox theology and traditional devotional practices were followed by the Catholic Church, he also rejected the modernist interpretations of the Catholic doctrine. He urged all Catholics to follow a lifestyle that reflects Christian Values and personal piety. He was the instrument of publishing the Code of Canon Law. Pius X was particularly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and maintained that there's no surest way to go to the Kingdom of God except through Mary. He died in 1914, beatified in 1951 and was canonized three years later, in 1954.

Blessed John Paul II

Cardinal Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland and moved to Krakow with his father at the outbreak of World War II. His life was marked with so many sufferings. At the age of 19, he was forced to work, and so with the rest of Polish, in the labor concentration camp by the Nazi, there, he endured the hard labor, pounding limestone at the scourging heat of the sun and during the biting cold at winter. At the age of 21, his father died probably from heart attack. 

His mother and only brother died when Karol was still young. A year after his father's death with no one left in his direct family, he entered the seminary and became a priest and rose rapidly to the ranks of Cardinal. His reign as a Pope marked the new age of the role of the apostolic life of the universal church. 

John Paul II threw his effort to the real Christian missions, actively sought the cooperation of world leaders for the promotion of peace and unity and strongly defended human life against violence, oppression and conflicts. Partly, he was the instrument of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.  He was particularly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, this devotion was reflected in his motto: "Totus Tuus" (Mary, I am yours), and in his coat-of-arms--a cross with a letter M representing Mary. He was one of the fewest Popes who was beatified in a very short period of time.


Now, another Conclave is on the way, which is unexpected by nature. 

Due to the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, unheard for a Roman Pontiff to do so for the last seven centuries, another gathering of Cardinals will be called to elect the next Pope and the anticipation among Catholics all over the world on who will be the next Supreme Head of the Universal Church became intense again.

Among the potential popes mentioned are Cardinals from the US, Latin America, France, Austria, Italy, Africa and the Philippines. Each of them boosts credible credentials and reputations of becoming the next Vicar of Jesus Christ, but each has his own disadvantage that might undermine the chances of being elected.

Among the great contenders are the following:
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan

Angelo Scola, 71 years old. Milan, Italy. He came from a country considered by many as a springboard to Papacy. He is an expert on bioethics. 

Advantages: He is an archbishop of Milan, closest to Rome, for several years and Papacy is always dominated by Italian Cardinals.

Disadvantages: His overtly straightforward way of communicating might not suit the standard of other Cardinals who are looking for someone like John Paul II, with a gift of charisma to the masses.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City

Timothy Dolan, 62 years old. New York City, USA. His dynamism and good sense of humor impressed the Vatican.

Advantages: He can connect easily with the masses and has a good gift of interpersonal relationships practically considered as good indications for the next Vicar of Christ. 

Disadvantages: His back-slapping style maybe too American for some Catholics and traditionalists and conservatives are wary about a "Superpower" Pope.

Latin American Cardinals from left: Joao Braz De Aziz, Odillo Pedro Scherer both from Brazil and Leonardo Sandri from Argentina

Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63 years old. Sao Paolo, Brazil. The strongest candidate among Cardinals from Latin America. He is regarded as a very conservative cardinal.

Advantages: His conservatism and stand for traditional Catholic practices plus coming from the largest Archdiocese in the Catholic world will give him an edge.

Disadvantages: The rapid growth of Protestants in Brazil is an indication that something was not right in the pastoral mission there and it might work against him.

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila, Philippines, the youngest among the Papabili . If ever he would be voted by the Conclave, he would be the second Pope coming from Asia after St.Peter and the youngest to be elected.

Luis Tagle, 55 years old, Manila, Philippines. Among the contenders, Tagle is the youngest and the newest cardinal to be installed. 

Advantages: He has the charisma and mass appeal often compared to Blessed John Paul II. He is close to the current pope and worked with him in the International Theological Commission. Tagle strongly uphold the social teachings of the Catholic church and extremely opposed RH Bill, same sex marriages and abortion. Most of all, he came from a country that has not yet legalized divorce, abortion and same sex marriages, social issues dreaded by the Vatican.

Disadvantages: He was only made Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI last November 2011 and other Princes of the Church might not favor someone to head the Vatican who is still new in the archbishopric service.

Source of the list of Papabili: Reuters

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