Mourning the pope
Special Coverage Index | NCR home page





Posted April 7, 2005 at 7:18 p.m. CDT

A blueprint for the future papacy

By Stacy Meichtry, Rome

In a point-by-point "blueprint" of the future papacy, Godfried Danneels of Belgium, a cardinal on several papabili lists, made a carefully-worded appeal for the selection of a pontiff capable of adapting church teaching to the demands of the modern world.

Speaking to a press conference in English, Dutch, Italian and French, Danneels described a "man of dicernment," who would increase the number of women in church government, tackle the ethical challenges presented by modern science and revive the church's primacy in Europe without compromising its sensitivity to regional needs around globe.

"It was important and it will be important not only to express the truth but to make it plausible, attractive and beautiful," Danneels said.

Danneels declined to say how Roman Catholicism's next leader should go about adapting the church to modern demands. He instead focused on Pope John Paul II's reign, characterizing it as a progressive pontificate that opened the church up to new generations of faithful around the world.

"All these things that he initiated are only initiated, we have to complete it and we have to develop it," he said.

During an opening statement, Danneels said the church needed to extend the role of women in the church, but stopped short of suggesting that women should receive ordination -- an issue he described as a "very special and singular question."

"Certainly (women) should have the possibility to be in the government of the church; that's clear," he said. Danneels did not specify if women should be given top jobs in the Roman curia. In a 1999 interview with NCR, Danneels responded "Why not?" to the question of whether women could run curial agencies, citing the Congregation for the Laity as an example that would "make sense."

Danneels also emphasized the need for a cosmopolitan pontiff capable of bridging cultural gaps and balancing the regional needs of bishops with the doctrinal demands of the universal church.

"It would be a condition for a new pope to be a very sensitive man to see what's happening in the different continents," he said.

The next pope will also "have to struggle with ethical problems that shouldn't always be reduced to sexual problems," he said.

"Is technology and science really a humanization of mankind or a dehumanization of mankind?" he asked.

Danneels also gave frank assessments of the decline of church attendance throughout Europe.

"To be a Catholic or a Christian is not directly linked anymore to regular every week practice," he said.

Asked how the church intended to respond to the declining numbers, Danneels replied: "It would take an entire press conference. I have some ideas, but I don't have the time to respond." He added: "Before the conclave, next week, we will certainly talk about such problems."

Danneels also denied Italian media reports that the College of Cardinals was planning to cut off media access by the end of the week.

Thursday Milan's Correire della Sera reported that Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, had instructed his colleagues to limit their exposure to the media.

Danneels said, "There has been no interdiction from anyone anywhere anybody of speaking. But we have to be intelligent and respectful."

In an earlier press conference, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York City stressed the importance of focusing the church's attention on local parishes as cardinals prepare for the conclave. "If you ask me where I want the focus to be," he said, "That is what's going to gain us vocations, gain us increased numbers, gain us unity."

Stacy Meichtry is a freelance journalist based in Rome. He is reporting and writing for NCR during this period of papal transition.

Top of Page   | Home
Copyright © 2005 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 
TEL:  1-816-531-0538   FAX:  1-816-968-2280