I have been spending the morning reading about the contenders for our new Pope. Mostly, it's John Allen who is leading the discussion. His daily Papabile posts are collected here, for anyone who has missed them:
I greatly appreciate his informative and balanced analysis of each of these leaders. What I come away with, after reading them all, is a deep sense of gratitude that we have so many excellent contenders. Each of these men are extremely learned, deeply in love with the Church, and capable of great acts of love and leadership. Not one has struck me as a "disaster" should he be chosen.
It's the main reason why I am approaching this conclave with a spirit of joy and expectation, rather than the feelings of dread, hopelessness, and disgust which accompany any American political election. I loved Pope John Paul II. I loved Papa Bene. I am confident I will love our new Pope as well. Also helping lift my spirits is my resolve to stay away from any secular coverage of the process or the men involved. Frankly, anything they can bring to the discussion is probably not worth knowing.
This is an exciting time for our Church, and one that gives us the opportunity to know better the men who form the top layer of Church authority. I confess I had read nothing about any of these men before I began this research. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about them, and about the Church in other parts of the world.
I had a conversation with a non-Catholic friend the other day who expressed utter shock that Catholicism was so large (1.2 billion.) In terms of proportion to population, Christianity is far and above the primary religion in the world, with over 2 billion adherents, of which half are Catholic and the other half are Protestant. Without the schism, the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world would be the second most populous denomination, instead of the first.
Last Conclave, I didn't read much about it, and though I followed the news on secular television on rejoiced when the white smoke appeared, I did not feel that I had a part in the process. This year, I am trilled to discover (hat tip to Better than Eden!) there is an opportunity to spiritually Adopt a Cardinal whom I can pray for during the Conclave.
I can't tell you how the whole-body wave of joy that swept over me when I discovered my Cardinal was from Africa! AFRICA!!! I received Robert Cardinal Sarah, of Guinea, himself a possible candidate for the papacy. I have printed out a picture of this beautiful man and am so excited to pray for the Holy Spirit to dwell within him during these upcoming weeks and guide the votes he casts.
Also, one final note. Whenever I watch any coverage of the Vatican I get goosebumps. Watching Pope Benedict XVI fly over Rome on his way to the Castelgandalfo, I just felt so blessed to be able to witness it without having to actually live in Italy. And the sheer eye-candy of his final address to the Cardinals only enhanced the beauty of his words to them. The new media has brought challenges to our lives, but on the whole, it is such a marvelous tool to draw closer the varied and distant populations of our faith family. I am so grateful for everything today, for the Church, for the news, for our Pope Emeritus, and for the body of Cardinals who will choose the next occupant of the Chair of Peter. God Bless the Church!