Rome/Vatican City (Mar. 11, 2013) - The Franks used to call Sundays “the days the Catholic Church makes merry”. From what I can see around me in the few hours that I have been here, something similar might be said for the time when a new pope is elected. A carnival-like spirit of excitement is more than evident everywhere.
But why should it not be a moment when “the Catholic Church makes merry”? Why should it not, in some sense, be a period of celebration? After all, we are selecting a successor to St. Peter and telling the world that, despite all of the assaults of hell upon her, from inside as well as without, the Mystical Body of Christ is still a palpable reality. And the merriment felt here now is just a foretaste of what St. John Chrysostom tells us Rome will be like on the last day, when the bodies of all of its saints rise from the dead, and Saints Peter and Paul adore their God and see and talk to one another in the flesh for all eternity.
Aside from calling attention to the contagious excitement around me, I can also pass on one small, encouraging bit of information that will be of interest to the readers of Rorate Caeli. Aside from the usual papabili, such as Cardinals Scola and Scherer, the name of one solid favorite, Malcolm Ranjith, has come up more than once in my hearing in just one single afternoon.
No less a source than the highly influential Corriere della Sera has noted Ranjith’s “outsider” chances, but other rather knowledgeable figures on the Vatican side of the Tiber as well. I heard him mentioned as having some dozens of supporters in the College - a not insignificant number if a horse race develops. Interestingly enough, moreover, Ranjith’s name was brought up not for, for instance, the liturgy - but on other grounds entirely. What I heard underlined was the fact that he is an impressive polyglot - Ranjith is conversant in many, many languages, a skill of great value to a Supreme Pontiff - and that his renowned administrative, diplomatic, and conciliatory talents have been confirmed by the honored role that he plays in public affairs in his own religiously divided country.
In short, in addition to quiet conservative cardinals who might find him attractive for his doctrinal and liturgical solidity, there may be others who would join in electing Ranjith for neutral reasons of serious merit.
Will a horse race develop? Or has some consensus already been achieved, guaranteeing a short conclave and, perhaps, an end of any traditional-minded merriment here in the Eternal City? Tomorrow will begin to let us know the answer. Till then.