Religious educators and media from all around the globe eagerly await news of the next pope as the papal conclave commences in the Vatican.
Religious educators, those that live and work in religious life, and Roman Catholics from around the world look to the next pope to help lead the Vatican into a new era, at a time when the church is at a crossroads. Many Catholics perceive the vatican as out of touch, at a time when religious scandals of gay relationships, child abuse, and other dramatic events are discussed by the world's media.
The Vatican renounces claims of abuse and scandal
"As cardinals from around the world begin arriving in Rome for a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, new shadows have fallen over the delicate transition, which the Vatican fears might influence the vote and with it the direction of the Roman Catholic Church," adds The New York Times today.
"In recent days, often speculative reports in the Italian news media — some even alleging gay sex scandals in the Vatican, others focusing on particular cardinals stung by the child sex abuse crisis — have dominated headlines, suggesting fierce internal struggles as prelates scramble to consolidate power and attack enemies in the dying days of a troubled papacy," adds the report.
"The reports, which the Vatican has vehemently denied, touch on some of the most vexing issues of Benedict’s reign, including the child sex abuse crisis and international criticisms of the Vatican Bank’s opaque record-keeping," adds the report. "The recent explosion of bad press — which some Vatican experts say is fed by carefully orchestrated leaks meant to weaken some papal contenders — also speak to Benedict’s own difficulties governing, which analysts say he is trying to address, albeit belatedly, with several high-profile personnel changes," adds The Times.
The Vatican Secretariat of State rebukes these claims today
Added The Times: "The drumbeat of scandal has reached such a fever pitch that on Saturday, the Vatican Secretariat of State issued a rare pointed rebuke, calling it “deplorable” that ahead of the conclave there was “a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
"The Vatican compared the news reports to past attempts by foreign states to exert pressure on the papal election, saying the latest efforts to skew the choice of the next pope by trying to shape public opinion were “based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the Church is living,” added The Times.
"Benedict had hoped to address at least one scandal with the February 15 appointment of a new head of the Vatican Bank," adds The Times. " It is less clear why he reassigned a powerful Vatican diplomatic official to a posting outside Rome, though experts say it diminishes the official’s role in helping steer Vatican policy."
February 11 announcement surprises the world
"On February 11, Benedict made history by announcing that he would step down by month’s end," added The Times. "He said he was worn down by age and was resigning “in full liberty and for the good of the Church.”
At the conclusion of the Vatican’s Lenten spiritual retreat, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the director of the Pontifical Council for Culture and a papal contender, spoke darkly of the “divisions, dissent, careerism, jealousies” that he said plagued the Vatican hierarchy," added The Times.
"The recent spate of news reports were linked to an earlier scandal in which the pope’s butler stole confidential documents that was considered one of the gravest security breaches in the modern history of the church," added The Times.
"Last week, largely unsourced articles in the center-left daily La Repubblica and the center-right weekly Panorama reported that three cardinals whom Benedict had asked last summer to investigate the leaking of the documents, known as the “VatiLeaks” scandal, had found evidence of Vatican officials who had been put in compromising positions," adds The Times.
"Vatican experts speculated that prelates eager to undermine opponents during the conclave were behind the leaks to the news media over the last week," added The Times.
“The conclave is a mechanism that serves to create a dynasty in a monarchy without children, so it’s a complicated operation,” said Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Center in Bologna and the author of a book on conclaves," added the report.
Whoever wins the top spot in the Roman Catholic Church will lead a church in flux, in transition, and tethered by unpopular global support. Religious educators hope that the new pope will lead with integrity and help chart a new era in our religious heritage. We will continue to report on this story as all eyes look to Rome to find out the direction the Roman Catholic Church will take in the next few years: will it be led by a conservative or a more progressive, modern faction? Time wil tell as the world awaits Pope Benedict XVI's successor.