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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 22, 2005 Issue 

Speculation fever

New pope should end speculation by letting cardinals say why they chose him

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Related articles from this week:

With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit at least part of the speculation about the new pope is over.

As this is written, the conclave has yet to open, but by the time you read it, we could well know who our new pope is.

Once we know that, the speculation begins on why he was chosen and what he will do during his reign.

At the least, it will be weeks, but more realistically months or years, before we know what his reign will bring, even if he "hits the ground running."

Whoever the new pope may be, he could perform a vital service to the church by allowing the cardinals to talk openly and honestly about the conclave and why he was selected.

Such a discussion wouldn't have to go into all the details of the conclave, such as the various factions that formed.

But it would be extremely helpful to Catholics and non-Catholics alike if the cardinals said, "In our conclave and our daily meetings preceding it, we agreed that the following are the biggest issues facing the church... In our deliberations we came to believe, with the guidance of the Spirit, that the man we selected was best able to deal with these concerns because... Working together collegially as the College of Cardinals, he has agreed that the priorities of his papacy will be the following... We ask for your help and prayerful support in addressing these needs and supporting him in his ministry."

Such an approach would state honestly the highlights of what happens in a conclave, the thinking behind the cardinals' decision and explain to Catholics and the entire world what the issues are and what the pope's agenda is likely to be.

Information on what specifically the pope plans to accomplish should be provided to us as adult Catholics, members of the People of God, pilgrims on the same journey as our ordained leaders.

It would also be a sign of collegiality in keeping with the teachings and spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

It shouldn't even be necessary to ask for such openness. However, rules Pope John Paul II laid down in 1996 require the cardinals and those assisting them in the conclave or at their residence take a solemn oath pledging "absolute and perpetual secrecy" about the election. Violation of the oath can mean excommunication. The new pope can and should lift that secrecy requirement.

Expectations and interest will be high for the new pope. There also will be some uneasiness about the changes he may bring to the church. One welcome change would be to tell us why he was chosen and specifically what he plans to do, and what he wants us to do.

Rest assured, if the pope and cardinals don't tell us, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC, Newsweek, The New York Times, Time and the Washington Post will with their own spin. This is the church's story and church leaders should deliver it personally.

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