Papal decision made at Vatican [VIDEO/SLIDESHOW]


White smoke poured from the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed, signaling that cardinals had chosen a new pope to lead the troubled Roman Catholic Church after only five ballots.

The decision by 115 cardinal electors came sooner than many faithful expected because of the large number of possible frontrunners identified before the vote to replace Pope Benedict, who resigned in February.

The name of the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics was expected to be announced in around half an hour from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

The secret conclave began on Tuesday night with a first ballot in the Renaissance splendor of the chapel and four ballots were held on Wednesday. The white smoke indicated the new pontiff had obtained the required two thirds majority in the fifth ballot.

Following a split ballot when they were first shut away amid the chapel's Renaissance splendor on Tuesday evening, the cardinal electors held a first full day of deliberations on Wednesday. Black smoke rose after the morning session to signal no decision.

Cheers arose from hundreds of people sheltering from incessant rain under a sea of umbrellas in St. Peter's Square as the white smoke billowed from the narrow chimney.

The cardinals had faced a tough task in finding a leader capable of overcoming crises caused by priestly child abuse and a leak of secret papal documents that uncovered corruption and rivalry inside the Church government or Curia.

The wave of problems are thought to have contributed to Pope Benedict's decision to become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

The last four popes were all elected within two or three days.

Seven ballots have been required on average over the last nine conclaves. Benedict was clear frontrunner in 2005 and elected after only four ballots.

The cardinals were shut inside for the secret election under Michelangelo's luminous frescos on Tuesday after a day of religious pomp and prayer to prepare for the task.

The initial inconclusive vote about two hours later was seen as a way of filtering the choice down to frontrunners for discussions among the supporters of the various candidates.

No hint emerged before the pope was chosen. The Vatican had taken precautions, including electronic jamming devices, to prevent any leaks from inside the conclave.

Faithful cheer as white smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, indicating a new pope has been elected at the Vatican, on March 13. Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

The new pope will take up a burden that Benedict declared in February was beyond his physical capabilities.

Apart from an child abuse scandals and the “Vatileaks” case, the Church has been shaken by rivalry from other churches, the advance of secularism, especially in its European heartland, and problems in the running the Vatican bank.

The former head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, is attending the conclave despite calls for him to stay away because of a sex abuse case that led to his censure by his successor Archbishop Jose Gomez in January. He was stripped of all public and administrative duties as punishment.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the victims in four sex abuse cases said the diocese, Mahony and an ex-priest had agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle. Mahony was accused of helping a confessed pedophile priest escape prosecution.

CARDINAL FRONTRUNNERS

Frontrunners at the conclave included Brazilian Odilo Scherer – who would be the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Gregory III, nearly 1,300 years ago – and Italy's Angelo Scola, who would return the papacy to traditional Italian hands after 35 years of the German Benedict XVI and Polish John Paul II.

In preparatory meetings before the conclave, the cardinals seemed divided between those who believe the new pontiff must be a strong manager to get the dysfunctional bureaucracy under control and others who are looking more for a proven pastoral figure to revitalize their faith across the globe.

Milan Archbishop Scola, who has managed two big Italian dioceses without being part of the Vatican's central administration, could be well-placed to understand the Curia's Byzantine politics and introduce swift reform.

Scherer is said to be the Curia's favored candidate and would satisfy those who want a non-European, reflecting the future of a Church shifting towards the developing world.

A host of other candidates from numerous nations have also been mentioned as potential popes – including U.S. cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O'Malley, Canada's Marc Ouellet and Argentina's Leonardo Sandri.

All the prelates meeting in the Sistine Chapel were appointed by either Benedict XVI or John Paul II, and the next pontiff will almost certainly pursue their fierce defense of traditional moral teachings.

Additional reporting by Naomi O'Leary, Catherine Hornby, Crispian Balmer and Tom Heneghan and Georgina Prodhan in Vienna; Writing by Barry Moody; Editing by Keith Weir and Alastair Macdonald

Argentinian Pope Bergoglio a moderate focused on the poor


The first Latin American pope, Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio is a moderate known for his strong negotiating skills as well as a readiness to challenge powerful interests.

He is a modest man from a middle class family who is content to travel by bus.

Described by his biographer as a balancing force, Bergoglio, 76, has monk-like habits, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.

“His character is in every way that of a moderate. He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force,” said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years.

“He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active…. a church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it,” she added.

“His lifestyle is sober and austere. That's the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class.”

The former cardinal, the first Jesuit to become pope, was born into a middle-class family of seven, his father a railway worker and his mother a housewife.

He is a solemn man, deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions. Since rejecting a comfortable archbishop's residence, he has lived in a small apartment outside Buenos Aires where he spends his weekends in solitude.

In his rare public appearances, Bergoglio spares no harsh words for politicians and Argentine society, and has had a tricky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

TURBULENT TIMES

Bergoglio became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies. Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years, holding the post from 1973 to 1979.

Bergoglio's vocational success coincided with the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, during which up to 30,000 suspected leftists were kidnapped and killed — which prompted sharp questions about his role.

The most well-known episode relates to the abduction of two Jesuits whom the military government secretly jailed for their work in poor neighbourhoods.

According to “The Silence,” a book written by journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Bergoglio withdrew his order's protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture.

Verbitsky's book is based on statements by Orlando Yorio, one of the kidnapped Jesuits, before he died of natural causes in 2000. Both of the abducted clergymen survived five months of imprisonment.

“History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cosy with the military,” Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.

Those who defend Bergoglio say there is no proof behind these claims and, on the contrary, they say the priest helped many dissidents escape during the military junta's rule.

But in the Vatican, far removed from the dictatorship's grim legacy, this quiet priest is expected to lead the Church with an iron grip and a strong social conscience.

In 2010, he challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill.

“Let's not be naive. This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan,” he wrote in a letter days before the bill was approved by Congress.

Additional reporting by Damina Wrocklavsy; Editing by Helen Popper and Giles Elgood

Jewish groups outraged at papal preacher’s Good Friday homily


From Catholic Culture:

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, provoked international controversy for his April 2 remarks comparing recent criticism of the Church to the “collective violence” suffered by Jews. Towards the conclusion of his Good Friday homily in St. Peter’s Basilica, Father Cantalamessa preached:

  By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.

Read the full article at Catholic Culture.

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