And now, as one, we turn to prayer...

After the high emotion of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's departure from the Vatican yesterday, which seemed to move so many people, there is a tremendous turning to prayer which I can sense all around me. All our priests locally in Southend Deanery arranged evenings of prayer and adoration in thanksgiving last night. I was aware of many other gatherings throughout the country as well. In Leigh we had our Lenten Reflection evening and of course the Pope was mentioned warmly and frequently. We had Benediction and Compline afterwards as always and this presented an opportunity to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and pray in thanksgiving for so gentle a leader as Benedict XVI, and to express our longing for a future leader as wise and as humble.

Of course this is reflected on the internet as well, with many prominent Catholic bloggers either overtly calling the faithful to prayer, or mentioning it in passing, because it is, of course, the natural response of us all now to turn to God in prayer.

There is no doubt that this is an unsettling time. I've only known three Conclaves, but I am familiar with the deeply unsettling feeling of Sede Vacante. I recall that sense that no one can step into the shoes of the previous Pope, and the sense of gratitude and humility when someone does!

I was in Venice when John Paul II died and can remember a desperate desire to jump on a train down to Rome to be at the heart of my Church whilst all this was going on. Just like the desire to be with the family when you are mourning a loved one.

When Ratzinger was elected, I was overjoyed. I was familiar with his books and they had provided a great impetus to have a greater faith and to fall more in love with the Church. I felt as if a friend had been elected and a wave of relief and safety washed over me. I knew this man, I knew where his mind was and what he thought. It was as if a trusted and much loved teacher had been elected pope.

So, now, part of the process of prayer, both in thanksgiving for the pope we have had, and for the pope we are to have, is the excitment of speculating who it will be. Which one of these men will be our Holy Father when the Conclave breaks and the Cardinal protodeacon announces 'Habemus Papam!'

One initiative I have subscribed to is this Adopt a Cardinal idea, which I quite like. You go to the page and they assign you a Cardinal to pray for.

So who are the candidates? I have to say I am a big fan of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, he has such a wonderful personality, you can't help but love him. Perhaps it is time for an American Pope?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The front runners are probably:

  • Marc Ouellet, P.S.S.; Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (68)
  • Angelo Scola; Archbishop of Milan (71)
  • Angelo Amato; Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (74)
  • Leonardo Sandri; Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches (69)
  • Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B.; Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras (70)
  • Gianfranco Ravasi; President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (70)
  • Gianfranco Ravasi; Archbishop of Paris (70)
  • Santos Abril y Castello; Archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica (77)
  • Christoph Schoenborn, O.P.; Archbishop of Vienna (68)
  • Antonio Canizares Llovera; Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (67)

I like what I hear about Ouellet. He is also relatively young and a polyglot, fluent in six languages. He is also a great scholar; Ouellet spent most of his priestly career as a professor and a rector in seminaries. He received a license in philosophy from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) (1976), and a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University (1982).

Cardinal Marc Ouellet
However, I have been assigned Cardinal Scola by the Adopt a Cardinal site and it has to be said, he is one of the favourites, occasionally being described as in 'pole position'.

Cardinal Angelo Scola
Cardinal Angelo Scola, the current Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan, was born in humble circumstances, in Malgrate, Milan, to Carlo Scola, a truck driver, and Regina Colombo. He was the younger of two sons; Pietro, his elder brother, died in 1983. One of the things I like about the man is that behind these humble origins, lies a powerful intellect of a great pastor and leader who breathes the same intellectual air as Ratzinger, coming as he does from the Communio theological school co-founded by the young Joseph Ratzinger in the period following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Scola's intellect is evident in that he is the author of numerous theological and pedagogical works on topics such as bio-medical ethics, theological anthropology, human sexuality and marriage and the family, which have been translated into several languages. In addition, he is the author of more than 120 articles published in scholarly journals of philosophy and theology as well as book length interviews with such theological greats as Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. This undoubtedly makes him one of the great thinkers and writers of the Church in the model of Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Angelo Scola studied philosophy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart from 1964 to 1967, obtaining his doctorate with a dissertation on Christian philosophy. He went on to obtain a second doctorate in theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, this time his dissertation was on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

I will now pray each day for Cardinal Scola, that he is open to the inspiration of God in his work as Cardinal elector and uses his intellect to ascertain the best possible candidate to be elected. If that should be Scola himself, then my prayer is that God will continue to bless him, be close to him and guide him. If he is elected, remember, you heard it here first!


‎"Thank you, thank you from my heart. I am happy to be here with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your friendship that does me so much good, thank you for your friendship, for caring.You know that today is different from others… as of eight pm I will no longer be the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. I will simply be a pilgrim who is beginning the last part of his pilgrimage on earth. But with my heart, my love, my prayer, with all my inner strength, I will work for the common good and the good of the Church and all humanity.And I feel greatly supported by your affection. Let us move forward together with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world."
Pope Benedict XVI from the balcony at Castelgondolfo, yesterday.




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