Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Reflecting on the passing of time and the impending abdication of the Holy Father, it occurred to me that the upcoming Conclave will be my fourth.
Admittedly, two of them occurred before I became Catholic. But I have vivid memories of my father (a lapsed Catholic) being very interested in the election of John Paul I, and then, soon after, sitting with him and watching the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel on television as John Paul II was voted in. I didn't understand the significance at the time, and was only vaguely aware that my father was a Catholic, but I did know that he thought it was important.
I've posted before on my experience of the last Conclave. I had remarked, more in jest than anything else, that it would be wonderful if Cardinal Ratzinger was elected; I was told that this was not even remotely likely, but that he would be very influential in determining John Paul II's successor.
That was as far as speculation on my part went. I didn't really know of any other Cardinals, except for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. The Catholic blogosphere wasn't as extensive as it is now, and, though the mainstream media bias against Catholicism was less widely acknowledged, I distrusted it as a source of reliable information on the Church, and had already given up my television. There wasn't really any time to consider who was papabile. It seemed to be in poor taste to speculate during the Pope's final illness, and once he had died, there was the period of mourning: speculation then as to possible successors seemed to be in equally poor taste.
This time, of course, there is no death, and no period of mourning. Many Catholics, like myself, have experienced a sort of grief and mourning at what seemed to be abandonment; however, the emotions are different to those which would have followed the death of the Holy Father. We have, in effect, been given "permission" to discuss the candidates for Peter's Chair.
Technically, any single, baptised Catholic man could be elected Pope. In reality it is highly unlikely that the man won't be a cardinal. There are 117 cardinals who will be eligible to vote. The Vatican website names 118 cardinal-electors, but it seems that, since the Holy Father's abdication takes place on 28th February, Lubomyr Cardinal Husar (whose 80th birthday occurs two days earlier) will be ineligible to vote.
Checking out the names on the Catholic blogosphere has made me draw only one conclusion: the field is really wide open, and it's anyone's guess. The inimitable Fr. Z seems to be keeping pretty quiet, though he has been looking at the cardinals' qualifications. Fr. Finigan won't make any predictions, though he has indicated his personal preference would be Mauro Cardinal Piacenza.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to have a look at PaddyPower - I'd used them to place a bet on the next Archbishop of Westminster (I lost.)
At the moment, Peter Cardinal Turkson is favourite at 5/2. Presumably this is because of the excitement about a possible black pope... disregarding the fact that a few of the popes in the past have presumably been black (think about where they came from!) But the old saying goes "He who enters the Conclave as Pope leaves as Cardinal."
HE Mauro Piacenza is being quoted at 40/1. Cardinal Burke is given odds of 80/1. Interestingly, Cardinal O'Brien from Scotland is at 66/1. PaddyPower even has a tongue-in-cheek rationale for predicting the next pontiff.
One shouldn't pay too much attention to the bookies' favourites, however. Richard Dawkins is given odds of 666/1. I'd have said that hell would freeze over sooner!