THE conclave of 2013 will be unlike any which has gone before it.
It will have all the magnificent pomp and drama, but unlike any other conclave it will be carried out in the invisible shadow of a living pope – Emeritus Bishop of Rome, Joseph Ratzinger.
Pope Ratzinger will not be present at the conclave, but 60 per cent of the voting cardinals have been appointed by him over the last eight years. That spiritual and personal legacy will not be insignificant.
So what are the issues and who are the personalities of conclave 2013?
Probably the first issue on most cardinals’ minds will be the nature of the Church’s engagement with the modern world. While few if any would favour a “pull down the shutters and retreat to the bunker” approach, similarly few would advocate throwing open the windows to secular culture. Between these extremes lies an array of approaches. These will be the root of much discussion.
Another issue which will surely concern the electors is the role and functioning of the Roman Curia, the Church’s central administration. The Curia has been beset with leaks and allegations, is widely perceived to be unco-ordinated in its actions and probably needs a clearer definition of its function. What is not on the agenda in the next couple of weeks are all those issues the media would like to put there. Women priests is not a topic that will even be discussed, and a revision of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is not an option that will be even considered.
What could sneak on to the agenda may be the issue of whether the great shift in the Catholic population requires a pontiff from the southern hemisphere. But observers expecting a new pope to usher in a wholesale review of the Church’s teachings are destined to be disappointed.
• Ronnie Convery is communications director at the Archdiocese of Glasgow.