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A Deep Bench



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In my post last night (when I was still bleary from too little sleep after the long flight from Rome the afternoon before) I misspelled the name of Cardinal DAnneels–and hereby beg pardon.

I note on Father Neuhaus’s daily blog at www.FirstThings.com that someone in his presence said of the College of Cardinals that they had “a deep bench,” and said this in fact in comparison with our own political parties in the U.S. and in, say, the European Union. Let me own up to that. I said that. I think swiftly of several men I would enthusiastically support as our next Pope, men that I have met over the years: the young Cardinal Scola of Venice, Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna (architect of the new Catechism, specialist in Islamic-Christian relations, wise and brilliant), Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria (wise, conservative, great sense of humor and vivacity, steady and solid), for instance.

Then there are three whom those I respect praise a great deal: Cardinals Bergoglio of Argentina (takes public transportation around Buenes Aires to attend to his duties), and Diaz of India (uncommonly thoughtful, and steeped in the special place of Jesus Christ among the world religions). Maybe most impressive of all is the strong executive, Camillo Ruini, favored by Pope John Paul II as his vicar actually to run the diocese of Rome, in which vocations are up, as is mass attendance. Ruini ran the Italian Bishops Conference during the Iraq period, and called attention to human rights abuses in Iraq and the just causes behind Italy’s modest military support for the Coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. For this, he won the gratitude of the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq, who also came personally to thank Ambassador James Nicholson, the US ambassador to the Vatican, for saving his people, one of the oldest of all Christian communities, and in danger of extinction. If the bishops are looking for real leadership–a doer, and a very smart and pastoral one–Ruini may be their man. John Paul II thought a lot of him.

I have heard others put Cardinal Pell of Australia on the list, and he’s a great candidate, too, in my book, another doer and good thinker, tall and straight and candid. Australia is in the South, after all. (Unless by “South” people don’t really mean geography… Japan is in the South, too.)


Well, I think it’s a deep bench.


There is no such thing as a man without flaws. But each of the above (and some others) shows potential above the ordinary. After JP II we have to remind ourselves that we are not looking for another Great pope–there have only ever been three–but need to be praying for a really good pope. Most of all, one will continue JP II’s work, and help us to assimilate it and pass it on. Especially among the young.



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