Will the next Pope face south or north?

Benedict failed to reform the Vatican, preferring to write his books

Share
Related Topics

No wonder Benedict XVI’s announcement that he was going to resign shocked the world.

The last time anyone was taken aback by a Pope’s resignation was that of Celestine V nearly 800 years ago. This is usually a job for life and now a man who has always seemed more on the side of tradition than change has rejected convention. Or, at least, he’s managed to revive one that most people had forgotten about.

When a papacy ends in death, it inevitably follows that there are kind words before criticisms, including those of a more acid type. And there will be kind words about Benedict, too; chiefly admiring ones about the power of his intellect and his formidable writing skills.

This is a Pope of the mind, or of the library. More traditional Catholics will bid not only a fond farewell to him but an anxious one, too. This Pope was their champion, reviving the Old Rite of Mass, and they had hoped he would last for many years. But more progressive Catholics will not so regret his passing; they have fretted that the Catholic Church was turning away from the contemporary world, driven instead by nostalgia.

The Catholic Church is not at ease with itself these days. The scandal of child abuse has affected us all, from the victims, to the perpetrators, to those of us caught in the middle, sometimes knowing victims, even knowing the accused. But it has been the cover-ups by bishops and cardinals that has most dismayed us, even more than the abuse. Then there was the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal, revealing the Vatican as a place of plots and counterplots, and people jostling for power: an organisation in dire need of reorganisation.

Benedict failed to reform the Vatican, preferring instead to write his papal documents and his books on Jesus of Nazareth. That made him a powerful communicator and his capacity to reach out to people was evident, too, in his travels, including his visit to Britain in 2010. But practical matters, such as administration, failed to interest him.

When Benedict was chosen in 2005, the view taken by his cardinal electors was that the Catholic Church needed to focus on Europe, once its powerhouse and now the centre of its struggle against secularism. That struggle has undoubtedly intensified during this pontificate. It may well be that the cardinals who elect Benedict’s successor will turn their attention to the parts of the world where Catholicism is strong: Africa, perhaps, or Latin America. Such an appointment will confirm that the Church can make the running when it comes to race.

But it won’t make it any more 21st century in its approach to sex and gender.

Catherine Pepinster is the editor of The Tablet, the Catholic weekly

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower