Last week, Pope Benedict XVI transferred Angelo Cardinal Scola, the patriarch of Venice, to the post of archbishop of Milan. As the nonpareil Vaticanologist John Allen points out in a fascinating story about Cardinal Scola in the National Catholic Reporter, this is a papal sign of approval that elevates Scola even further, from his already high rank among the papabili. Scola, writes Allen, is a close intellectual and personal associate of Benedict XVI. Now, popes cannot appoint their successors, and an attempt on a pope’s part even to unduly influence the choice would probably be resented by the cardinals and end up being counterproductive. So one way to interpret this move is that Benedict is only suggesting to the cardinals, “When the time comes for choosing my successor, if you decide that you are looking for someone who would be a sign of continuity with my particular approach to the papacy, please consider Scola.”
An interesting character note from Allen’s piece:
The legendary Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, the public face of [the Catholic lay movement] Communion and Liberation in the United States, met the movement through Scola in 1993. He said Scola struck him as a remarkable blend of doctrinal orthodoxy and zest for life.
“I had met lots of priests who were alive, free, spontaneous, understanding, wanting to share people’s lives in all their aspects, but they had problems with the teachings of the church,” Albacete said in a 2005 interview. “On the other hand, I found priests who accepted the teachings of the church, but in a subservient way. They were rigid, boring and afraid.”
In Scola, however, Albacete said he found what he had been seeking.
“He was not rebelling against the church,” Albacete said. “Yet he was the freest and most spontaneous priest I ever met.”
A deeply orthodox but free and spontaneous priest? It looks like Scola would be a sign of continuity not just with Benedict XVI but also with Bl. John Paul II. Definitely a man to watch.
UPDATE: Many thanks to eagle-eyed reader A.C., who pointed out that the Allen piece is in the National Catholic Reporter, not the N.C. Register as I initially wrote. Apologies to both papers, who would understandably resent being confused with each other!