After seeing the last two pontificates going to a Pole and a German, the Italians are said to be eager to see one of their own wearing the Ring of the Fisherman. In all discussions, three names dominate: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan. Of the three, Cardinal Scola, 71, is said to have the most impressive CV. If, however, someone younger is needed, Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice, is waiting in the wings, He’ll be 60 in May, but the problem is that he’s not a cardinal. Of course, nothing prohibits the election of someone who is not part of the Sacred College, but tradition is central to the rites of the Catholic Church.
If youth is an issue, and Benedict XVI has certainly put the matter of age into play by way of his renunciation of the Papacy, conclave historians will note that Karol Wojtyla was a mere 58 when he became John Paul II. That being the case, it may well be worth keeping an eye in the coming weeks on a young cardinal who has enhanced his theological credibility by helping to author the huge history of Vatican Council II. As well, his doctrinally correct pastoral work is said to be pleasing to Benedict XVI and his simple lifestyle and outreach to the poor have impressed the faithful. Step forward, archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
Backgrounder: He’s 56 and he’s got 118,000 likes on Facebook. More importantly, he’s from the Philippines, which is the only Asian nation with a Catholic majority. Rome would like to see that state of affairs change in our life time and just as the USA is said to be pivoting towards Asia, the Vatican is aware that the Pacific and not the Atlantic will be the decisive ocean in the 21st century. Cardinal Tagle might just be the person to lead the new wave of evangelization, about which we’ll have more here on Friday.