[Paleopsych] NYT: Italians Feel They Need the Next Papacy for Themselves

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Italians Feel They Need the Next Papacy for Themselves

[Does Mugabe have any brother?]

    VATICAN CITY, April 15 - For 455 years, the papacy passed
    uninterrupted from one Italian to another until the election of the
    Polish pope, John Paul II. Now, after 26 years, many Italians think it
    is time to get back in office - for fear that changes in the Roman
    Catholic Church may close the door on them for good.

    As 115 cardinals from 52 countries prepare to enter a conclave on
    Monday to select the next pope, some Vatican historians believe that
    the election of another foreigner will conclude a historic shift of
    power away from Italy. According to this school of thought, the papacy
    needs to mirror Catholicism's growth in the Southern Hemisphere, where
    the ranks are increasing in Africa and Latin America while shrinking
    in Europe.

    Few church experts think that another loss for the Italians will knock
    them out as papal contenders for good, but it seems sure once and for
    all to shatter the idea, reinforced by so many centuries of dominance,
    that Italians are preternaturally the best men for the job.

    Some here think that would be a mistake.

    "There is a vocation, an Italian charisma," said Vittorio Messori, an
    Italian writer who collaborated on John Paul's 1994 book "Crossing the
    Threshold of Hope." "The Italians have a tradition of centuries behind
    them, they know how to do the job of pope, it's in their DNA."

    Well, until now, anyway. "Another non-Italian pope would confirm
    Italy's decline," said Giovanni Maria Vian, a Vatican scholar at La
    Sapienza University of Rome. "It would mean Italy has lost its central
    role in papal succession."

    There are signs that Italy is resisting such a trend, seeking to
    reclaim its traditional hold and add to the 212 popes it has had in
    the church's history.

    The 20 Italians who will enter next week's conclave still constitute
    the largest bloc of cardinals for any single nation, and a handful
    have emerged as frontrunners among those being considered for the
    papacy. In recent years, as the pope's health waned, a number of them
    maintained a high level of visibility and weighed in on major issues
    and challenges facing the church.

    Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, the archbishop of Milan, released his
    major work on bio-ethics as an e-book. Cardinal Angelo Scola, 63, the
    archbishop of Venice, started a magazine last month promoting dialogue
    with Muslims, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, 74, the vicar of Rome,
    published a book criticizing secularism.

    There also seems to be a more subtle campaign, on the part of Italians
    as a whole, to recast John Paul as one of their own.

    Cardinal Ruini presided over a memorial Mass for the pope last week,
    delivering an uncharacteristically charismatic performance in which he
    noted that John Paul had entered "so deeply into the hearts of Romans,
    but also Italians."

    Italy's capital, too, has staked its claim, plastering the streets
    with posters announcing, "Rome mourns its pope." The College of
    Cardinals also decided that the pope's final resting place should be
    in St. Peter's crypt, instead of his native Poland.

    Regardless of how much Rome may claim John Paul as its own, the fact
    remains that he was a pope with global appeal, and his enormous
    personality and long reign left an indelible stamp on the papacy.

    "Wojtyla became the church himself, people identified him with it,"
    said Pietro Scoppola, an Italian Vatican expert, using John Paul's
    name before he became pope. "An Italian could step back and let the
    church step forward."

    Indeed, some Vatican analysts argue that a shift back to an Italian
    pope may be necessary to properly govern the Curia, or church
    government, because few have as intimate a knowledge of the inner
    workings of the Vatican bureaucracy, which manages the daily
    operations of the church and which John Paul largely ignored.

    But an Italian cardinal, Fiorenzo Angelini, who is 88 and too old to
    vote in the conclave, seemed to disagree in an interview this week
    with Corriere della Sera of Milan.

    "Our perception of the church has broadened, to the point of reaching
    really global dimensions," he said. "You can't reason any more with a
    national mentality, and not even a Continental one."

    The largest growth of Roman Catholics in 2003, the last year Vatican
    statistics are available, was in Africa, followed by Asia and South
    America. Only in Europe did the number of Catholics fail to rise.

    "The center of the church, from a sociological point of view, is not
    in Italy," said Giancarlo Zizola, author of "Conclave: History and
    Secrets," a study of how popes have been selected. "The world has
    changed, and it is normal that the church change too. There is good
    chance now of the first non-European pope in a very long time, and
    that would be significant."

    Greek and Syrian popes reigned at the early stages of the nearly
    2,000-year history of the church, and the French all but moved the
    Vatican to Avignon in the 1400's.

    Since Adrian VI, a pope from Holland, died in 1523, the Italians have
    held a tight grip on papal power, through the rise and fall of the
    Papal States and two world wars. But in 1978, the year of John Paul's
    election, that all changed.

    Wherever the pope is from, one thing is certain, and it is something
    that Pope John Paul instantly grasped during that first papal address
    from the balcony of St. Peter's so many years ago, when he spoke to
    the Roman crowd in what he called "our Italian language."

    "Those who don't speak Italian are out," said Mr. Messori, the writer.
    "It's like wanting to be the secretary general of U.N. and not
    speaking English."


    1. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JASON%20HOROWITZ&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JASON%20HOROWITZ&inline=nyt-per

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