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Strong in Faith: What are you hoping for in the next Pope?

— A fortnightly discussion chaired by our Catholic university chaplaincies Next time: How should we react to the events around Cardinal O’Brien? Have your say at

Discussion 10: What are you hoping for in the next Pope?

ADAM COATES: Firstly holiness is the most important thing, we need a saintly Pope who can be a witness to the world. Part of that holiness is, of course, orthodoxy. A continuity of Pope Benedict XVI’s proper interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and the Liturgical reforms that have taken place under him is also essential. Lastly, someone who can engage, as Pope Benedict XVI has done so very well, with the secular world.

FRASER DAVIDSON: I agree with Adam. I hope that the next Pope will be a living saint and be able to inspire people in the Church and wider society to grow in faith and appreciate the Liturgy more. I thought that Pope Benedict was a great Pope and he will missed now that he has resigned.

GERALD BONNER: Ditto to everything Adam and Fraser said. Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both shown us the way to properly implement the Second Vatican Council, in harmony with all the previous councils. Also, Pope Benedict XVI has set a wonderful example of how the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy should be celebrated. However, on both these fronts more time is needed for all this to fully take root in many parishes and dioceses, so the new Pope will need to continue to clearly lead the way in these regards. He will also need to be ‘as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove’ to see us through storms both external and internal to the Church.

JAMIE MacGOWAN: I AGREE. Especially what Gerald said about Liturgy. The Ordinary Form of the Liturgy has been so enriched by Pope Benedict’s example, especially in his encouragement of Ad orientem worship. He has shown us the correct way to implement the Second Vatican Council, Traditional Catholic Doctrine, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments together with bravely handling Liturgical Abuses with the document Redemptoris Sacramentum. And of course, his opening up of the Tridentine Liturgy to Catholics, especially to those young Catholics like myself who are attracted to orthodoxy and traditionalism. I am so happy that Pope Benedict XVI has done such great work for us. He needs to be orthodox, strong, faithful, yet humble. I pray that the Holy Spirit has chosen such a candidate.

PETER VASQUEZ: I hope the new Pope follows in the footsteps of his two exemplary immediate predecessors. Like Peter walking out to Jesus on the waters he has to keep himself focused on Christ and the Faith of the Church and not be consumed or distracted by the choppy waters of secularism.


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Pray for the new Pope before, during and after his election

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, you will find just about every type of Pope you can imagine. Except one: the perfect Pope. No one has ever been worthy to be Pope, and nothing will change this time round. But even if there will never be a perfect Pope, that does not in any way mean that we should not hope and pray for the best Pope possible. And what makes a good Pope? The best starting point is a holy man who loves the Lord, who is truly humble and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Recent events in Scotland with the revelations about Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s conduct have re-emphasised the need for a Pope who strives with all his strength to live out what he preaches as a living witness to the Gospel. Of course, like the rest of us, he will be a sinner, but we can hope for a man who recognises his sinfulness and is committed to the conversion of heart necessary to true repentance and communion with God.

The good witness of a Pope is not absolutely necessary—as the bad popes of history demonstrate—but at a time when there is a cultural and social predisposition to unbelief, any excuse for rejecting the Faith will be pounced upon. A Pope who shines to the world as a beacon reflecting the Light of Christ can only help wavering souls to remain faithful or to look afresh at the teachings of the Gospel.

There are also many practical challenges the Church currently faces and will face in the coming years. In the likes of St Peter Celestine, history shows us that it is not enough for the Pope to be holy. In order to truly succeed, he must also possess the human skills and characteristics necessary to resolve contemporary issues. For example, the continuing chaos in parts of the Vatican curia will require a particularly strong organiser if it is to be overcome.

The lack of proper Catechesis in recent decades suggests a need for clear and concise teaching of the fundamental Christian doctrines, as well as of more complex modern issues.

The call to holiness is not a rejection of the call to a better rational understanding of our Faith. Indeed, quite the opposite.

So what should we hope for in the next Pope? A humble man filled with the Holy Spirit; a beacon to the Light of Christ proclaiming the saving truth of the Gospel; a great witness boldly living out the Faith he teaches. All of this and more we can hope and pray for, but we must be careful not to expect too much. The next Pope will share the human frailties of our fallen nature, frailties that will be subject to unimaginable physical, mental and spiritual pressures. We cannot base our Faith on the expectation of a perfect Pope. Rather, we must pray now and always that he will have the strength and courage, and the openness to God that will enable him to fulfil his ministry as best as possible. Our prayers are of course needed during the election of a new Pope, but they are needed no less during the course of his Pontificate. So, whoever he may be, let us keep him always in our prayers.


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