Attention is now clearly on the College of Cardinals and who they will elect to be the 266th successor of St Peter. The media is in an absolute frenzy as they speculate about who the successor of St Peter will be.
Catholics, who happily put forward their speculation of who will be elected as the next Pope, help to feed this media frenzy. Their speculation is based on all kinds of reasoning, which ranges from the number of languages a cardinal speaks, his administrative ability, age, understanding of the politics in Rome, popularity and goodness knows what else.
I find it strange that Catholics would participate in all this speculation. In my opinion this reduces the election of the successor of St Peter to a purely secular level, with little, if any, consideration of the fact that the Church is not an organisation like other secular organisations.
It is little wonder that the world does not ‘get it’. The behaviour of a great number of Catholics, especially those who are all too eager to appear on television or the radio and express their ‘expert’ opinion, provide little sense of the supernatural element of our Church. Sadly, it is often priests who lead this speculative circus, setting an absolutely shocking example for the lay faithful. The election of the Pope is discussed in purely secular terms, just as the potential leader of a government would be discussed.
Anyway, I have digressed from the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to emphasise a reality that few of the ‘experts’ on radio and television have spoken of. They have listed numerous qualities that the new pope should possess to be the best candidate, yet few have stated the quality that I believe is most important.
St Peter and the other Apostles were taught directly by our Lord Jesus. It was to them that our Lord revealed the truths of our Faith. They received the deposit of Faith directly from Jesus.
St Peter and the Apostles were in turn required by Jesus to pass on this teaching, completely unchanged, exactly as they received it from our Lord, to the rest of the world. They had no authority to alter anything that they received from Jesus. Their successors, the bishops, do not have that authority either.
Our Lord was quite specific in making St Peter the foundation of the Church. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” Hence the statement: “Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia” - Where Peter is, there is the Church.
Our Lord also told St Peter on Holy Thursday night: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
St Peter’s main role, which passes to each of his successors, is to nurture and protect the Church. It is his role to keep the Church together and help them remain faithful to all that our Lord Jesus taught his Apostles. This is the quality that the Pope must have. The courage and wisdom to defend the deposit of Faith that our Lord Jesus gave to His Church and ensure it continues to be passed on unchanged from generation to generation.
Administrative skills and all the other skills that people claim the next Pope needs to have is not important. They are merely advantages. A Pope can appoint people around him to make up for any of the skills that he may lack. What is crucial is that we have a Pope who will defend, at all costs, the exact Faith that our Lord Jesus personally gave to the Apostles!