Written by Matthew Harper. Media by Bobby Williams
The final of the 115 cardinals needed to begin the conclave to choose Pope Benedict XVI’s successor have arrived at the Vatican, joining discussions that as of yet are secret to the public. These early meetings, called general congregations, are focused on not just when the conclave will begin, but also a number of different issues the Roman Catholic Church is facing at this time.
According to Reuters, the general congregations have not been as secret as they are meant to be this week, as the Vatican has been unable to completely contain leaks of information from the meetings. Italian papers and sites have been reporting things that are supposedly on the agenda at the meetings. Cardinals themselves have been giving information to reporters, which has not just the Vatican worried, but also fellow cardinals who don’t want what they are discussing spread to the masses, as some heavy issues within the Church are being debated. The Vatican’s spokesman says that the cardinals in the meetings need to stick to their vow of secrecy.
The problem seems to be that, while the Church wishes to remain as traditional as possible during these proceedings, the nature of the world today is for information to spread quickly and widely at all times. People expect information now, not whenever the Church finally decides to release things. Some of the information leaked to the Italian press includes discussions urging for more details on mismanagement in Vatican bureaucracy and American cardinals wishing for the new Pope to end infighting in the Vatican (Reuters).
While these meetings are building up to the all-important conclave, the resignation of Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien for sexual misconduct has been making headlines around the world. Philip Tartaglia, the archbishop who temporarily filling in for O’Brien’s former position, called the scandal “a sad moment for the church” and said that “there is little doubt that the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow” (BBC News). He did express feelings of hope, though, especially revolving around the upcoming conclave and whomever the new Pope ends up being. He stressed that, though “it will take time, perhaps a long time” to recover from the Scottish scandal, the Church and its followers “cannot be defeatist.”
That sense of hope concerning the upcoming change seems to be prevalent through the entire Roman Catholic Church, and, with the conclave having to begin by March 20 according to Church law, the world will soon see if that hope will be paid off or if more disappointment is to come for the billion plus Catholics in the world.