In a stunning move that shocked even Vatican insiders, Pope Benedict XVI became the first standing Pontiff to step down in nearly 600-years. Citing advanced age and physical infirmities, the popular Catholic leader of over a 1.2 billion Catholics will leave his position on February 28th.
Speculation is now acute regarding who will replace the Catholic spiritual leader as a possibility of electing the first non-European pope could take place before the Easter observance according to sources in the Vatican. There is a strong possibility that the first black and non-European pope could be a front running replacement. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace would represent a third world choice.
Just as importantly, another leading candidate, Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone, the Cardinal secretary of state, who was born in Romano, Italy could be another leading choice. Prophesy buffs would find great significance to Cardinal Bertone being named as the new pope because he could qualify as “Peter the Roman” who is identified as the “end of days” pontiff that ushers in the return of Jesus Christ with the destruction of Rome and judgment.
The prediction came from St. Malachy who had a vision of 112 popes beginning with Pope Celestine who died in 1144. The final pope, who would be 112, would be called “Peter the Roman”.. Pope Benedict XVI is the 111th pope since St. Malachy’s prophetic utterance.
There has been a push for the Catholic Church to liberalize its doctrines to accommodate the changes in sexuality, abortion and marriage that much of secular society has adopted as a standard. The Catholic Church has even seen a minor revolt in the order of sisters that have wanted the Vatican to adjust its traditionally strict standards.
Interestingly, the progressives have been battling the conservative values that drive the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Many Catholics wanting the Catholic Church to relax its standards are banking that the new pope will not be as conservative as the line of pontiffs as Pope Benedict.
Conservatives argue that the worldly standards should not be changing the church, but the church should be maintaining its strong traditional values. The articles of faith of the Catholic Church are typically not subject to interpretation, but the ultimate authority and standard is articulated by the Roman Catholic pontiff.
The Catholic Church has been going through a reformation of sorts, however it is doubtful there would be any sweeping changes that would be a direct affront to the doctrines of the church, progressive or not. The new pope will face challenges to setting the standard for conformity, but those expecting the new pope to adopt secular views regarding marriage, abortion or marriage will be bucking against tradition.