Smiling Pope 2.0?

We’ve seen Pope Francis being compared to his immediate predecessors, as is only natural, but while seeing him individually greet the cardinals today, the similarities between him and Pope John Paul I are quite striking.

Look at these two videos, the first giving an impression of Pope Francis today, and the second showing some select footage of Pope John Paul II in 1978:

But ultimately, although it is a fun exercise and a means to get to know him, we must let Pope Francis be himself and allow him the time to find his place on the Chair of St. Peter. Perhaps he will continue to remind us of Pope John Paul I, or of any other pontiff that came before him. But simply seeing him as a carbon copy of anyone does neither him or his predecessors any justice.

Pope facts

pope francisAs the enthusiasm, even in the secular media, for Pope Francis hasn’t much waned since his election, here are some interesting facts about the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.

First of all there is his choice of name. No other Pope before him was called Francis. The last time a Pope chose a name that had not been used before was in 1978, when Pope John Paul I was elected, although he chose a combination of two existing names. For a fully new name, we have to go back to 913, when Pope Lando started his reign of less than a year. Unlike John Paul I, Pope Francis does not have a “I” after his name, since there is no other Pope Francis in past or present to confuse him with. John Paul I did add the “I” to indicate that he was neither John XIV or Paul VII.

Pope Francis is also the first Pope from the Jesuit order. The last Pope to come from a religious order was Leo XIII in 1878. He was a Secular Franciscan. The last Pope to have made public religious vows was Gregory XVI in 1831, who was a Camaldolese monk.

Pope Francis’ age is only slightly noteworthy. At 76, he is two years younger than Benedict XVI was at his election. In fact, he is the second-oldest Pope since Blessed John XXIII, who was some 7 months older at his election. In general, Popes have rarely been in their 70s when elected. The aforementioned John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis are among them, but the next one we encounter if we go back in history is Pope Clement XII, who was 78 when he was elected in 1730.

As has been widely reported, Pope Francis is the first Pope to hail from the New World. None before him have come, as he himself put it in his first public words after his election, “from the ends of the earth”. The last Pope from outside Europe was St. Gregory III in 731. He came from what is now Syria. Pope Francis is the third Pope in a row from outside Italy, although he does have Italian roots.

Lastly, in the style of my earlier overview of modern conclaves:

  • 12-13 March 2013: 115 cardinals elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis. The election took 5 ballots.

Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano

Habemus Papam! – Simplicity hiding toughness


A new face, definitely a new name, and plenty of memories of both Popes John Paul (in appearance and in the way he was received). From what little we have seen of him, it is clear that Pope Francis (no “the first”!) is not like his immediate predecessors. And yet, there is much that is familiar.

My first glimpse of him, in footage showing him walking towards the balcony, immediately reminded me of the stature of a Pope Paul VI, or perhaps John Paul I. On the balcony… well, what else could we feel but sympathy mixed with joy. What an undertaking he faces! Poor Pope Francis… But then he addressed the crowd, asked them to pray for and with him, as Benedict XVI was wont to do as well. And that smile that eventually broke through on his face: a second smiling Pope?

Yesterday, it would seem, we received a Pope who is truly a servants of the servants of God as the world best knows it: a man who is not afraid to approach the weak, the sick and the poor, who shuns pomposity and vanity and, as we soon learned, chose to take the bus with the other cardinals back to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, instead of taking the limousine that was waiting.

But that humility should not be taken for weakness or even simplicity. As his chosen papal name indicates, underneath the simplicity of his appearance and actions, not unlike his two immediate predecessors, lies a person of great strength and faith. Whereas Benedict XVI was the professor who taught us about the faith, Francis will be the older brother who walks with us and shows us the way in love and charity.

The new papal face and name will take some getting used. I will miss Benedict XVI, but I am also certain that I will soon come to love Pope Francis.

As an aside, you’ll notice some changes in the blog. In the left sidebar I have added the photo of then Pope in place of the seal of the sede vacante, and on the College of Cardinals page, which you can find via the tab above, I have made Cardinal Kasper a  non-elector and removed the man who was once Cardinal Bergoglio.

Now that the date has been set, how long until we have a Pope?

conclaveAlthough I have consciously avoided much speculation about possible papabile, what goes on behind the scenes, or even who I prefer to be the new Pope (as I don’t think this is a political election in which the popularity of a given cardinal plays any part, and besides, it’s not up to me to decide who should be Pope – thank God!), there is some merit in thinking about the question that is the headline of this post: how long can we expect the conclave to take? At the very least it will be informative.

Of the conclaves held in the 20th and 21st centuries, the longest was the 1922 one, in which Pius XI was elected. His election took 14 ballots, or five days. The shortest was the next one, in 1939, electing Pius XII. This took only three ballots, or less than two full days. On average, a conclave in the specified period took roughly 7 ballots, which coincides with 4 or 5 days.

Oddly enough, the larger number of electors in the most recent conclaves, as compared to earlier conclaves, does not lengthen an election significantly. The conclaves of 2005 (115 electors choosing Benedict XVI) and the first of 1978 (111 electors; John Paul I) were among the shortest with 4 ballots each. The conclaves of 1914 (57 electors; Benedict XV) and 1922 (53 electors) needed 10 and 14 ballots respectively.

Generally, based on the numbers, we may expect the upcoming conclave to take between 4 and 6 ballots, as those were the numbers needed in the past four elections (with the exception of the second conclave of 1978, which elected Pope John Paul II – this had 8 ballots). With a starting date of 12 March, we may expect the “Habemus papam!” to resound across St. Peter’s Square and the world on 13, 14 or 15 March, or maybe the 16th or 17th (but this is, in my opinion, less likely).

But, as with all predictions regarding the elections of Popes, all this may turn out to be wrong. The conclave may be over within less than two days, or take a week or longer. In the end, there’s really no telling what will transpire.

Here is a little table with some information about the conclaves of the 20th and 21st centuries:

  • 31 July – 4 August 1903: 62 cardinals elected Giuseppe Melchiore Cardinal Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice, as Pope Pius X. The election took 7 ballots. This was the last conclave in which a veto was used.
  • 31 August – 3 September 1914: 57 cardinals elected Giacomo Cardinal della Chiesa, the Archbishop of Bologna, as Pope Benedict XV. The election took 10 ballots.
  • 2 – 6 February 1922: 53 cardinals elected Achille Cardinal Ratti, the Archbishop of Milan, as Pope Pius XI. The election took 14 ballots.
  • 1 – 2 March 1939: 62 cardinals elected Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Secretary of State, as Pope Pius XII. The elections took 3 ballots. It is said that the third ballot was on the request of Cardinal Pacelli, who had already won the majority vote after the second ballot, to confirm his election.
  • 25 – 28 October 1958: 49 cardinals elected Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, the Patriarch of Venice, as Pope John XXIII. The election took 11 ballots.
  • 19 – 21 June 1963: 80 cardinals elected Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini, the Archbishop of Milan, as Pope Paul VI. The election took 6 ballots.
  • 25 – 26 August 1978: 111 cardinals elected Albino Cardinal Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, as Pope John Paul I. The election took 5 ballots.
  • 14 – 16 October 1978: 111 cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Archbishop of Kraków, as Pope John Paul II. The election took 8 ballots. This was the first conclave in modern times in which a non-Italian was elected.
  • 18 – 19 April 2005: 115 cardinals elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Pope Benedict XVI. The election took 4 ballots.

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Cheli passes away

cheli_g_cpf_2Called a “zealous pastor” by Pope Benedict XVI, Giovanni Cardinal Cheli swapped the temporal for the eternal last night, after 94 years of life spent for the most part in service to “the Gospel and to the Church”. The College of Cardinals, of which Cardinal Cheli was a non-voting member, now number 209, with 118 of them electors.

Giovanni Cheli was born in Turin and was ordained for the Diocese of Asti in 1942, after obtaining a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University. In Asti, he worked as chaplain to the youth section of Catholic Action, and also taught at the diocesan seminary. In 1952, after a time working in Rome and earning a licentiate in theology, Fr. Cheli entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1952.

His first posting was in Guatemala, followed by Spain and Italy. In Madrid, he performed pastoral work in addition to his duties in the nunciature. In 1967, Fr. Cheli was assigned to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church. In 1973, he became permanent observer to the United Nations, an assignment which was confirmed again in 1976. In 1978, he was once of the few bishops consecrated by Pope John Paul I. Archbishop was renowned as an expert on the Church’s issues in relations with the Communist nations.

Archbishop Cheli was appointed as Pro-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which would became a pontifical council in 1988, still under the leadership of Archbishop Cheli.

Shortly before his retirement in 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal, with the deaconry of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Ten years later, Cardinal Cheli became a cardinal priest with the same title church.

Outspokenly critical on many issues, Cardinal Cheli protested the US invasion of Iraq in 2001, the age limits for cardinals and some of the curial appointments of Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Cheli was among the five oldest cardinals of the Church.

Cardinal Watch: Cardinal de Araújo Sales passes away

Going by the date of creation, Eugênio de Araújo Sales was the most senior cardinal in the College until his death last night. At the age of 91 the former archbishop of Rio de Janeiro came to the end of a life marked by service to the Church in his native Brazil, and the numbers of that life are certainly impressive. A priest for more than 68 years, a bishop for almost 58, and a cardinal for a little over 43 years…

Eugênio de Araújo Sales was born into a wealthy family in the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. His father was a judge, and young Eugênio was able to receive a good education. At 15, he entered the minor seminary in Natal, the state capital, and a year later he moved to the major seminary in Fortaleza. Completing his studies in 1943, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Natal, which had been created only 34 years earlier. He devoted his time to pastoral work, but somehow came to the attention of the higher powers in the diocese that in 1952 had become an archdiocese. In 1954, Pope Pius XII appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Natal, with the titular see of Thibica (a see today held, incidentally, by the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer).

In 1962, although Archbishop Marcolino de Souza Dantas did not retire as archbishop of Natal, Bishop de Araújo Sales was appointed as apostolic administrator sede plena, indicating that the archbishop was, in some way, incapacitated or unable to run the archdiocese. Two years later, on 9 July 1964, Bishop de Araújo Sales was transferred to the Archdiocese of São Salvador de Bahia, one of Brazil’s oldest and most prestigious sees, once more as Apostolic Administrator sede plena. In that same period, he attended all sessions of the Second Vatican Council. In October of 1968 his appointment as archbishop of São Salvador de Bahia followed. Befitting his new function, Archbishop de Araújo Sales was created a cardinal in the following April, at the same consistory were Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands was created. His cardinal title was San Gregorio XII. He was the first cardinal protector of that church.

The cardinal’s time in São Salvador de Bahia turned out to be fairly short, as he was moved southward in April of 1971, to the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. And that is where he would stay until his retirement in 2001. He was also the bishop for the faithful of the Eastern Rites in Brazil. Recently, evidence began to surface that, in Rio, Cardinal de Araújo Sales was strongly opposed to the  human right violations committed under the military regime of the time. Later, he also became a steadfast voice for the protection of Catholic morals in daily life in the city and all of Brazil.

Aside from his normal work as shepherd of the faithful in Rio, Cardinal de Araújo Sales participated in several major international conferences and assemblies in the Americas and in Rome. He participated in the conclaves that elected Popes John Paul I and Blessed John Paul II, and represented the latter at several major celebrations in Brazil and Portugal. Followed the death of the Blessed Pope, Cardinal de Araújo Sales was one of the nine prelates offering a funeral Mass for the deceased pontiff.

Cardinal de Araújo Sales continued with pastoral activities well after his retirement. At the age of 90 he still regularly offered Mass in a parish church in Ipanema and maintained an office next door to it. He also contributed a weekly column on faith and morality to a local newspaper until the current archbishop of Rio, Orani João Tempesta, took over from him (upon the cardinal’s own suggestion) in April of 2011.

With the death of the cardinal, the College of Cardinals now numbers 208, 121 of whom are electors.

Among popes

Eighty-five years of age and, three days from now, seven years as pope. Does Pope Benedict (seen left, celebrating a private Mass on his birthday) break any records with these numbers, and how does he compare to his various predecessors? Let’s take a look at him and the ten popes before him.

As far as age is concerned, Pope Benedict XVI is certainly among the oldest active popes. Only Pope Leo XIII was pope at a higher age, ending his life at 93 in 1903. Blessed John Paul II, in comparison, was 84 at the time of his passing in 2005. He was also the youngest of the ten most recent popes: when he began his papacy in 1978, he was 58 years old. Benedict XVI was already twenty years older than that at the start of his papacy.

The longest papacy was, again, that of Bl. John Paul II, ay 26 years. Leo XIII’s comes close at 25.5 years. Pius XII’s papacy lasted from almost 20 years. On the other of the scale we have Pope John Paul I’s time on the see of Rome: a mere 33 days in 1978. Benedict XVI’s seven years, then, does not rank high: he leaves only the papacies of John Paul I and Blessed John XXIII (4 years and 218 days) behind him.

While there have been a fair number of longer papacies, the current one is obviously not at an end. We hope and pray that the Holy Father still has many years in good health before him. Today, he is a shining example that age is not an impediment to good pastoral leadership, sharp intellect and good humour.

Photo credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano