Election of a new Pope - Since the declaration by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XIV that the See of Peter (literally, the office of the Pope) will became vacant from 20.00 hours on Thursday 28th February 2013, there have been so much said, insinuated, and written about the Petrine office and ministry and the person of the Pope.
While some people have used the opportunity to pay glowing tribute to the person of the Pope and the office, others who have grudges against the Catholic Church had used the opportunity to voice their deep seated hatred and angst. For those who have grudges I say that never in history have the Church of God being without people like you. For those praying for strength for the office of the Pope, I also say the Church has always survived terrible and horrible times on the promise of Jesus Christ that the gates of hell can never prevail against her, and on your prayers.
These are the contending desires that struggle to control the world. For next few weeks before the white smoke comes out again from the famous chimney in Saint Peters in Rome and the proclamation of "HABEMUS PAPAM", heralding the election of another Pope, and even long after that, the press will never be without opinions of these two groups.
The election of a Pope continues to throw the world into frenzy. Many factors are responsible. The office of the Pope is primarily spiritual and also temporal. Not only because he is head of the State of the smallest country in the world, the Vatican, the proclamations of the Pope have ripple effects across the world, affecting every facet of human life, from Agronomy to Zoology. He is the moral voice and authority of the entire universe. Everyone, both Christians and non Christians are interested in who becomes the pope. Last week the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi reported that the preparations for the conclave has began and that 4,432 temporarily accredited journalists have joined the 600 permanently accredited journalists in the Vatican to cover the events of the Conclave.
The more than 5000 journalists represent 1,004 news outlets, 65 nations and 24 languages. Is this just to cover the secret meeting of the 115 cardinals? No! Every one, nation and press outfit would like to get the first hand information about the election of the moral voice of the world. The election of the one who will succeed Peter and continue with the Petrine office of making disciples of all nations is not an ordinary event.
Some people have said it is time for Africa, Asia or Latin America where the population of Catholic Christians have continued to rise against the decline of population of Christians in the Europe and North America.
It has been said many times that the appointment of the Pope is not rotational, by zoning or by representation. These are the processes that world is used to, however, this is not the process the Church uses. Remember that for over 450 years before John Paul 11 was elected Pope in 1978, all the Popes had been Italians. Within these years, the Church also flourished in Europe and evangelization was done in the emerging world of Africa and other Eastern European countries.
When the Cardinal electors shall gather in conclave, one thing will be paramount on their minds, letting the will of God to be done. None of the Cardinal elector will enter the conclave, wearing the red vestments with the pectoral cross handing on his neck, with the intention of pursuing sectional, regional or national interest.
The Church of God is going through a trying moment which is not strange or unexpected. We hear of people who are bringing cases of inappropriate sexual activities of the clergy and religious to the civil courts. Over 97% of these cases happened over 20 or more years ago. Some of the people are said to have been suffering the trauma since they said they were molested.
The Blessed Pope John Paul 11 and his successor, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI had apologized for such felt hurts and offered appropriate measures. Accusing the clergyman and receiving payment for it does not in any way take away the perceived pains and hurts but many has made millions of Dollars and Euros from it.
There have been agitations from various governments and rights groups asking the Church to approve of gays, homosexuals, lesbians and various forms of sexual orientation. Others are asking for legalization of abortions and the use of various forms of artificial contraceptives because they reason that to refuse a lady the right to kill her unborn child is to deny her of her human rights.
Some groups are asking for the acceptance of women into the clerical state. Other have suggested that those in clerical state should be allowed to marry in order to curtail sexual misconduct as if married men do not engage in extra marital affairs. Pundits have it that these and other issues will shape the election of a new Pope. Issues of public interest like these shape the elections of nations, states and unions but I do know that whoever shall be elected Pope shall be the will of God and will only be keen on carrying on the task that Jesus Christ left for the Church.
The Cardinal Fathers will not be playing to the gallery by doing what the opinion poll will want them to do neither will they be unmindful of the need of the world. Each Cardinal will go into the conclave with gratitude in his heart knowing that it is a privilege for him to participate in the election of a Pope. There are Cardinals who never had that privilege of going into conclave.
No Cardinal will abandon this opportunity of going into the Holy of Holies in the Sistine Chapel to elect a Pope after God's heart only to pursue mundane agenda. The worry of the leaders of the Church today is not about what is popular or not but what is necessary for both body and soul of man.
The electors will balance the needs of man and Church. As Thomas Cardinal Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto Canada, a Cardinal elector said, "Because the Holy Father has to be responsible for the whole world, and therefore sometimes, each cardinal coming from his own perspective will think certain things are very important others not so much, whereas it's the reverse with other cardinals.
So it's important to get the whole picture and I think that's what we will do. I think one of the great consolations that we all have is that during the period after the See is vacant and especially during the Conclave is to know how many people will be praying for us. At 5pm on 6th March, 2013, just last Wednesday, the Cardinals gathered in Rome for their general Congregation met for prayers at St. Peter's Basilica and called on all Catholic faithful all over the world to join them in the prayer for the success of the coming conclave. Let us join in this constant prayer for the Cardinals are about to elect the voice of the voiceless, the conscience of the world and not just the Bishop of Rome and the Pope of the Catholic Church.
Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko is the Director, Pastoral Affairs, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja.
By Ojaje Idoko