Mar 11 2013 By Cheryl Mullin
CATHOLIC cardinals have gathered at the Vatican for their final day of talks before the conclave to elect the next pope.
They meet amid debate over whether the church needs a manager pope to clean up the Vatican or a pastoral pope who can inspire the faithful at a time of crisis.
Several cardinals were signed up to speak at the closed-door morning session, an indication that they still have plenty to discuss before sequestering themselves tomorrow afternoon in the Sistine Chapel for the first vote.
There is no clear front-runner for a job most cardinals say they would never want, but a handful of names are circulating as top candidates to lead the 1.2 billion-strong church at a critical time in its history.
Cardinal Angelo Scola has serious management credentials, running the archdiocese of Milan – Italy’s largest and most important – and before that Venice, both of which have produced several popes in the past.
Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer seems to be favoured by the Vatican Curia, or bureaucracy. Scherer has a solid handle on the Vatican’s finances, sitting on the governing commission of the scandal-marred Vatican bank as well as the Holy See’s main budget committee.
The pastoral camp seems to be focusing on two Americans, Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Sean O’Malley of Boston. Neither has Vatican experience, although Dolan served in the 1990s as rector of the Pontifical North American College, the US seminary up the hill from the Vatican.
If the leading names fail to reach the 77 votes required for victory in the first few rounds of balloting, any number of surprise names could come to the fore as alternatives.
Those include Cardinal Luis Tagle, archbishop of Manila. He is young – at 55 the second-youngest cardinal voting – and was only named a cardinal last November. While his management skills have not been tested in Rome, Tagle – with a Chinese-born mother – is seen as the face of the church in Asia, where Catholicism is growing.
Tomorrow begins with the cardinals checking into the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Martae, a modern, industrial-feel hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens. While the rooms are impersonal, they are a step up from the cramped conditions cardinals faced before the hotel was first put to use in 2005; in conclaves past, lines in the Apostolic Palace used to form for using bathrooms.