The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 23, 2013

Vatican expert with Mankato ties suspected pope's resignation


However ... “Covering the Vatican gave me a little more to sink my teeth into.”

Indeed. He said the upcoming conclave, with all its grand secrecy, is the kind of thing people love to watch.

“There’s a fascination because it’s still a closed process in an era of transparency,” Thavis said. “Americans coming off an electoral campaign are used to seeing the candidates ad nauseum. The opposite happens in Rome. Cardinals come, meet behind closed doors, and they don’t talk to the press. They make sure they don’t say anything that would tip their hand or make it sound like they’re running for pope.”

Even behind the scenes, Thavis said, cardinals don’t outwardly campaign for pope. Any campaigning is on this very subtle level with cardinals approaching each other to advocate meekly for the vision of another cardinal, but never for themselves. To do so would result in a de facto elimination from consideration.

So why would the cardinals not choose someone with ambition, someone with the desire to lead?

“If the church were choosing a CEO, they might want raw ambition. But they’re not. They’re choosing a spiritual leader, a father figure. They want someone who can communicate well, someone who can teach the younger audience.”

The cardinals will meet daily for two weeks to discuss Pope Benedict’s successor. After that, they’ll vote via written ballot. If they fail to come to a consensus, they let the world know by burning the written ballots. The black smoke puffing out of the chapel smokestack tells the world they’ve failed to choose a new pope. When the do arrive at consensus, the smoke that emerges is white.

Ideally, Thavis says, they like to reach consensus prior to the vote.

“The last thing they want is for the world to be watching and they can’t make a decision,” Thavis said.

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