Pope Benedict XVI will formally abdicate on Thursday at 8 p.m. local time—with great uncertainty to follow for the Vatican.
Catholics in various countries have begun to express hopes that their respective compatriot candidates may become Pope. It is uncertain who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI, but it is certain that whoever it is will take over a troubled Curia.
The Curia has been plagued by in-fighting during Pope Benedict XVI’s eight years at its head.
Political commentator Massimo Franco told the National Christian Register, “The gaffes are not due to problems of external communications … They come from within, from the fact that the information chain inside the Vatican doesn’t work anymore because there is a sort of short-circuiting.”
Vatican insiders have told MSNBC that the next pope needs to accomplish two tasks immediately. First, he must clean house—rid the Curia of the dissension that has made it difficult for the pope to enact reforms. Second, he must develop a better communication strategy.
One high-ranking figure in the Curia fears the pope’s resignation will be contagious.
“If the idea of physical efficiency as a criterion for staying on or stepping down takes hold, we risk devastating consequences. It can only be hoped that a new pontiff will be able to take the situation in hand, draw clear, Roman boundaries and stop the drift,” the anonymous cleric told Italian publication Corriere Della Sera.
National Pride Behind Successor Hopefuls
Rumors that the pope favors a Latin American successor were sparked by his address at the Vatican on Wednesday morning during his last weekly audience.
He addressed the crowd of more than 100,000 faithful in six different languages. He reportedly only asked the crowd to bless his successor while speaking in Spanish, leading some to believe it was a sign of support for a Latin American successor.
The pope did, however, also ask the crowd to bless his successor in English. A Vatican spokesperson told MSNBC that the pope did not intend to express particular favor.
Canadian media outlets have run a number of articles touting Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet as a hopeful candidate.
American hopefuls include New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
The pope is currently on a week-long retreat at the Vatican for Lent. He may choose to move up the papal conclave, the meeting of the College of Cardinals during which the next pope will be selected, which is currently expected in mid-March.
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