Correspondent for Catholic Communications believes next pope will be distanced from scandals
A pastor and correspondent for the Diocese of Springfield believes that the College of Cardinals will select a pope who is untainted by the controversies that have rocked the Vatican in recent years.
“They do read newspapers. They know about public opinion,” said the Rev. William Pomerleau. He said they will be looking for a pope without any connection to scandals over sexual abuse and misconduct or mismanagement in the Vatican.
Pomerleau is pastor at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Springfield and an expert on Catholic church procedure as well as a staff correspondent for Catholic Communications, which provides media support to the Springfield Diocese.
Catholic cardinals will begin the conclave Tuesday, but there is still little sign who the next pope will be.
“It’s very, very hard to predict this time around,” Pomerleau said. “There’s no one person who’s a leading candidate.”
The College of Cardinals has been gathered in Rome for a week, participating in general congregation meetings twice a day. During these meetings, cardinals give speeches about the direction the church is going and the qualities the next pope should possess.
On Tuesday, cardinals will begin the conclave when they select the next pope. In the morning, they will attend Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, and in the afternoon they will gather in the Sistine Chapel where they will hold the first round of balloting.
From Wednesday until a new pope is selected, the 115 electors will cast two ballots in the morning and two ballots in the afternoon. Over the last century, a conclave has never lasted more than five days. For a new pope to be selected, he must receive two-thirds of the vote, or 77 votes.
Pomerleau said that because the pope needs so much support, the process is about building consensus. “No one country can lock it up. Not even a continent can lock it up.”
The voting is secret and the ballots are burned after they are tallied. Following each inconclusive round of voting, black smoke is sent up the chimney. The conclave signals when a new pope is chosen by sending white smoke up.
“Because it’s such a stylized process, there isn’t too much time to have a real open discussion,” Pomerleau said.
Instead, the general congregation meetings leading up to the conclave are the best chance for potential candidates to attract support, and for cardinals — including those who are older than 80 and not eligible to vote for a new pope — to influence the selection.
By the beginning of the conclave in 2004, Pomerleau said that Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI after his election, was already a favorite for the position.
One important question about the next pope is what country he comes from. “We need to affirm the fact that now two-thirds of the world’s Catholics live in the Third World,” Pomerleau said. “But ultimately, what’s really important is the man, whoever he is, understands the problems of the Third World.”
The Vatican is doing everything in its power to keep the results of the voting secret until the new pope is officially announced. For instance, workers installed a false floor in the Sistine Chapel and placed signal-jamming equipment beneath it to prevent eavesdropping.