Venerdì, 21 Settembre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Smoke better than texting to announce new pope

English
© ANSA

(By Giovanna Chirri).
Vatican City, March 12 - Tradition is better than
technology to announce that the 266th pontiff has been chosen, a
Vatican spokesman said before the start of the conclave to elect
Benedict XVI's successor on Tuesday. Conclave watchers should be
waiting for white smoke drifting out of the Sistine chapel's
chimney and the sound of ringing church bells rather than
expecting a text message. ''A minimum of suspense is part of the
beauty of this event, I don't promise to send a text at that
moment'', said Father Federico Lombardi.
Father Lombardi, a spokesman for Benedict XVI since 2006,
has over the past few weeks been helping the international media
to understand the Church and its bi-millennial tradition, the
mechanisms to elect the pope, which are technical yet enveloped
in the fascination of secrecy. He has answered technical doubts,
made theological clarifications, and responded to questions on
mysteries and peculiar details.
The 85-year-old Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, resigned
on February 28 on the grounds that he no longer had the mental
and physical strength to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
He was the first pope in 600 years to abdicate.
Overall, the Vatican spokesman has invested in
transparency, common sense and competence in responding to the
media - the same ingredients with which he has explained how
votes of the 115 cardinal-electors taking part in the secret
conclave in the Sistine Chapel are counted. Lombardi explained
the process by comparing it to the meetings of religious orders
to choose their superiors. A Jesuit, Lombardi is attuned to the
election of the Jesuits' ''black pope'', as the head of the
largest and one of the most influential Catholic orders is
known.
The voting mechanism to elect a pontiff follows certain
steps, Lombardi explained. First cardinal-electors - who are all
under 80 as cardinals over that age are not eligible to vote -
cast their first ballot according to their priorities and
expectations. A number of names usually emerge from the first
vote or round of votes. However, cardinals understand fairly
quickly which candidates are gathering more consensus and choose
one from this first selection. At this point, votes start
converging on a name. This process can reportedly be rather
fast.
Such a process looses part of its mystery when the
procedure is explained. Never before has the public opinion
followed this closely - through the Internet, Twitter and
Facebook - the selection of the next pope since Benedict XI's
shock announcement on February 11 that he would step down.
Thanks to modern technologies, Vatican watchers can follow the
conclave, have their word on the quality of cardinal-electors
and question the state of health of the Catholic Church
worldwide.
Does this mean that information on the Church is becoming
more democratic? According to German theologian Peter
Huenermann, this could be ''the most difficult conclave in the
last century as it takes place under the eye of so many
interlocutors''.
Historians Alberto Melloni and Pino Ruggieri cited the
''puritanism of the media'' which judges the morality of
cardinal-electors. An example is the case involving the
Archbishop of Edinburgh Keith O'Brien who decided not to take
part in the conclave after the media reports accusing him of
having abused young men who were studying to be priests in the
1980s.
Ever since the beginning on Monday last week of the general
congregations, Father Lombardi warned journalists against
reporting a ''conclave of the media'' which has very little to
do with the real conclave. The general congregations are daily
meetings which enable the cardinals to get to know each other
better and share ideas about what characteristics the next
leader of the Catholic Church should have.
Over the past centuries, leading powers influenced the
selection of a pontiff. Could the power of the media exercise a
similar influence? The Vatican has the role of shedding light on
secrecy, of explaining how it works by making naturally reserved
procedures transparent. The media on the other hand must try and
understand so they can tell the story. Looking at the colour of
smoke drifting out the Sistine Chapel's chimney is quite an
experience. A pilgrim, an intellectual, a reporter, an agnostic,
an onlooker or a tourist can live the experience in total
freedom, feel the emotions and store the memories. It's a matter
of smoke against a text message, reality against a virtual
world. (giovanna.chirri@ansa.it)

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