Wanted: Humble shepherd, clear communicator, world traveler


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Pope Francis leaves a meeting with Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano in Rome Nov. 14, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Four years ago today, 115 cardinal-electors chose a new pope. Inspired through prayer and the Holy Spirit, the men sought to elect the best pastor for this particular moment in the church and the world.

We here at the CNS Rome bureau spent days tracking what cardinals, church leaders and lay faithful were saying about the kind of person they believed was needed for today’s new challenges. Have a look and see… how did they do?

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston celebrated Mass at his Rome titular church of Santa Maria della Vittoria March 11, 2013, and was surprising prescient about the pope-to-be’s penchant for certain parables:

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Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in his pre-conclave homily the same day:

“There is not just a God of justice, but there is a God of forgiveness and mercy, who goes toward the one who has sinned.” He said the new pope would have to “give the world the great message of God’s love and infinite mercy.”

Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, told me March 1, 2013, that:

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Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier at the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2014. (CNS photos/Paul Haring)

nap2 this.JPGCardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna told reporters that despite the need for reforms, the church needed a spiritual leader and “man of the Gospel” rather than a manager or company CEO. Any administrative finesse would be useless without a strong spiritual foundation because reform demands “a kind of pastoral conversion.”

Oblate Father Andrew Small, who was visiting Rome at the time as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, told CNS March 8, 2013:

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People in St. Peter’s Square waiting for the name of the new pope to be announced March 13, 2013. (CNS photo/Chris Warde-Jones)

Here’s a list of attributes or characteristics many lay faithful and men and women religious mentioned when I spoke with them during the “smoke-watch” in St. Peter’s Square:

“Young people need an example, the elderly should be a priority. We need tranquility and peace.”

“A bit of humility and knows how to speak. He must give hope, optimism because in the end, what is left? One must hope.”

“There’s dirty laundry. Need housecleaning.”

“Someone who will preach the Gospel, to speak to us about Jesus Christ — he is the one who gives us hope and life meaning.”

“An ability to speak the Christian message in terms people can understand, to at least plant a seed.”

“More focus on Third World-countries so a cardinal from there … There’s been a lot of scandal so to restore reputation of the Catholic Church.”

“Someone who knows how to be with the people, down-to-earth with everyone.”

“It’s time we have a pope from Latin America … or Canada” said a Catholic couple from Toronto.

“Needs to be open, modern, charismatic, like John Paul II.”

“I would want a pope the whole world sees as their own.”


Pope Francis during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 27, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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