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Pope Benedict XVI is saluted by Swiss guards as he leaves the Synod hall after a meeting with Cardinals and Bishops at the Vatican, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Will the Cardinals meet sooner than March 15 to elect the next Pope? Maybe, maybe not.
Some have wondered whether the secret vote will be moved before March 15 since the cardinals will gather for Pope Benedict XVI’s farewell on Feb. 28. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Paris’ Andre Vingt-Trois are against moving the conclave earlier, though, and Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said the cardinals will make a decision when they meet.
Father Don Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union, believes the conclave will be longer than the two days it lasted in 2005. Senior, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, notes that in the last conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger was well known and considered a front runner as a transitional leader after John Paul II.
Senior believes “it’s a wide open field. It will take longer.”
“I don’t think there’s someone so commanding," he says, adding “this time they want someone younger."
As for Benedict’s health, his official biographer says the pope went blind in his left eye and lost weight from the pressures of the job. German journalist Peter Seewald notes Benedict’s hearing is also very poor.
This week the spotlight is on Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, leading the Papal retreat. It’s Ravasi’s rare opportunity to make a final impression on the leaders of the Curia.
Ravasi happens to have more than 35,000 Twitter followers with an Italian and English account @Card Ravasi. At 70 years old he also records podcasts. There are actually nine cardinals who tweet.
Manila’s Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is also one to watch. At 55 years old, Tagle is considered young by cardinal standards. He’s active on Facebook and commutes to work on a bicycle. He hosts a weekly tele-evangelizing program, has a YouTube channel and gives reporters his cell phone number.
An American Pope? Much of the focus has been on New York City’s Dolan, while others believe Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley is getting considerable buzz. Several Italian newspapers have profiled O’Malley as a reformer on the priest sex abuse crisis. He speaks Italian and Spanish and once worked in Chile as a priest.
As for the impact the priest sex abuse crisis continues to make, Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis believes Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony should not participate in the conclave. Recently thousands of personnel files showed Mahony covered up child abuse by priests.
What might the new pope be called? There’s a website called popenamesbook.com that notes there have been 265 popes but have only used 81 names. The name is viewed as a statement of who he is and how he will govern.