The Vatican has said it wants a new pope in place by Easter and before he retired, Benedict XVI authorised cardinals to move the date of the conclave forward from the traditional 15 to 20 days because they are not mourning a dead pope.
“We need a new way of governing the Church. A more horizontal government. The Curia must be revolutionised,” German cardinal Walter Kasper said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, referring to the Vatican’s bickering governing body.
The Curia has become one of the key issues of debates surrounding the future of the Church after secret papal documents leaked to the press last year – in a scandal dubbed “Vatileaks” – alleged corruption and infighting in the administration that many hope the new pope will tackle.
“I think the Curia in general, beyond whatever emerges from Vatileaks, needs to be revolutionised,” cardinal Kasper said.
“And as well as the word reform, there must be a second: transparency. The Curia must begin to open up, and not fear transparency.”
Though the centuries-old bureaucracy should serve the papacy, it has the power to block or water down papal decisions and has been criticised for playing politics under Benedict.
There have also been calls for details of an in-house investigative report about Vatileaks, and some electors have been openly reluctant about speeding up the vote without knowing all the facts.
“This is time for a long reflection,” cardinal Kasper said.
“This conclave needs to be prepared calmly. There is no hurry.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, from the United States, said: “I’m not saying Vatileaks will be a determining factor, but I do want to know all pertinent aspects.
“We have to take all the time we need.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said it was not necessary for all of the 115 cardinal electors – cardinals below the age of 80 – to be present in Rome for the date to be set, though there seemed to be some confusion among cardinals as to whether they had to wait for three colleagues still missing to arrive.
US cardinal Francis George said in an interview with the La Stampa newspaper that the cardinals are not ready to form the conclave to elect the new pope.
“It’s not a question of rules. Even if all the cardinal electors were here in Rome, I would still not want to go into the conclave now,” he said.
“We need the necessary information to be able to make the right choice.
“What went wrong to create this break in trust within the government of the Holy See?
“It is a concern, and one we’ve not had a formal report about.”
Rumours continued to swirl over who is the most likely candidate to occupy St Peter’s chair after Benedict’s surprise resignation last month, though analysts have said the field is still wide open.
“I can tell you that the list of papal contenders is growing rather than shrinking,” cardinal George said.
“The names bandied around in the newspapers make sense, but we are also talking about candidates which have not been mentioned so far.”
Reporting for NaijaGospel