A Pope humble enough to resign is a Pope who’s not likely to put his thumb on the scales in any coarse way to try to influence the choice of his successor. But it’s still interesting that his choice to lead this year’s Lenten retreat for the papal Curia — where the audience will include a fair number of conclave voters – is Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, who is in the top-to-middle tier of papal candidates. The retreat was originally scheduled to begin on March 17, which would now make it either in the middle of the conclave or right after — but I got an e-mail today from Vatican maven Robert Moynihan saying the week-long Spiritual Exercises will begin next Sunday. A great opportunity for some electors to size up a candidate, at great length.
I should point out, though, that despite this act of papal favor toward Ravasi, the conventional wisdom is that the pope’s favorite is Angelo Cardinal Scola. Scola is probably the most Ratzinger-like of all the candidates: a genuine world-class intellectual, shy but sweet-natured too. One of the shibboleths of Vatican watchers is that the cardinals never choose a guy just like the last pope — but then, the Vaticanisti rules are made to be broken. (“He who enters the conclave a pope leaves it a cardinal”: wrong – Pacelli in ’39. “The Romans will never go for a non-Italian”: wrong – Wojtyla in ’78.)