Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A future Pope on the Holy Spirit and the Conclave


Lest anyone forget amid all the media and online listing of Papal candidates, theologically speaking, the Holy Spirit has a vital role to play in the process of the Conclave. Selecting the new Pope is not just a matter of building an electoral base, as may have occurred in the past, but is also seen as a Divine guidance for the Body of Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed this matter in 1997 during an interview with Bavarian television, whilst he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Prefect of the CDF. This was the year after Pope John Paul published his codification of papal electoral procedures. The comments were reprinted in the book Conclave by the Vatican journalist  John Allen, on pp 135-8.
The Cardinal said that the Holy Spirit does not actually choose the new Pope since "there are too many contrary instances of Popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked." The Pope Emeritus has, I think, a nicely nuanced sense of the history of the Church, which is evident in many of his books and articles.

He went on to say "I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us."

The future Pope continued: "Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that He dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Until recently I would have said that the Holy Spirit may not appoint the Pope but he certainly sacks him!