Anything can happen if you just have some faith. I know that odds are that the Papal Conclave beginning today at the Vatican will likely not select Cardinal Timothy Dolan as the next pope, but I hope they do.
Evidently, I’m not alone. Yesterday, Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rome. After the service, Italians and Americans standing outside began chanting, “Habemus Papem” which means “We have a pope.”
I realize the odds are against Cardinal Dolan’s selection for several reasons. First, he’s an American and as a superpower we’re seen as cowboys by the rest of the world. From comments I’ve seen, there are many in the world who fear that an American pope would turn the Vatican into a sort of religious version of Buca di Beppo, the fun but garish Italian restaurant that sports multi-colored Christmas lights and sexy pictures of Sofia Loren throughout. They fear a version of Buca’s Pope Room, complete with a bust of the new pope in the center of the table, at the Vatican. They are stuck on a stereotype where all Americans are culturally deficient and lacking appreciation for tradition. Others feel that the United States is already too powerful and that having an American pope would skew power even further in the United States’ favor. Cardinal Dolan is also a relatively new cardinal and an outsider as far as the Vatican is concerned.
Although I know the election of the pope is not a political campaign, I’d at least like to share an argument against all the reasons I’ve heard against his election thus far.
While I can see the “superpower” argument, I can also see an interesting counter to that argument. Having an American pope could result in greater influence of the Catholic Church worldwide since the pope would likely exert greater influence in this country. Years ago, it would be the government that would fear a pope from within its borders rather than the Church fearing the influence of that government over the individual pope. As pope and as an American, the Church would have greater ability to influence the direction of this country than would a pope from another country. This might concern some Americans, but I’m not sure it should concern those outside the United States.
As for Cardinal Dolan himself, while he’s new and something of a Vatican outsider, I think those very qualities would actually help him as pope. Judging from the reaction of the crowd outside the church yesterday, Cardinal Dolan connects with people and has great charisma.
Although I’m not Catholic, I attended the first mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York after Cardinal Dolan became a cardinal. I’ll never forget thinking that he would be a wonderful pope. I was sitting on the aisle and as he walked by I thought he was like the sun—warm, positive, and with almost a healing power. As a side note, I’d recommend anyone visiting New York to attend mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. You’ll never forget it.
Cardinal Dolan would be a wonderful pope. Whatever the outcome, the next few days for the Catholic Church will be extremely interesting.