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Asian bishop says new pope must rejuvenate Church, world

'Should be no surprise if he is from developing country'

21 February, 15:41
Asian bishop says new pope must rejuvenate Church, world (ANSA) - Rome, February 21 - The next pope following Benedict XVI will be expected to "rejuvenate" the Catholic Church and the world, says Nithiya Sagayam of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.

The Franciscan, who is executive secretary for the federation's Office for Human Development, says the next pope should also dabble less in politically loaded issues like contraception and devote more attention to protesting war and injustice.

His words, written in an article for the Catholic Church-run Fides news organization, come more than a week after Benedict shocked the world by announcing his plans to retire on February 28, triggering the search for a new pontiff.

When the 117 cardinals gather in conclave in Rome to select the next leader of the Church, they must look for a man who can "rejuvenate the world," raise hope, and be a voice that is "prophetic and merciful," writes Sagayam.

The next pope should also provide the voice of conscience for world political leaders while strengthening ties to other religious leaders.

Sagayam warned that the Church has become too focused on the politics around controversial issues such as same-sex marriage, contraception and ordination of women, when it should instead care more for the weakest members of society.

"The world has lost hope in the Church," writes Sagayam.

"But the Church is based on the Gospel...(and must) accept the cry and anguish of the people, especially the poor and the marginalized".

The Catholic Church must also begin to take stronger stands against violence, war, weapons production, discrimination, and the exploitation of the poor and marginalized, he added. And that may require a pope chosen from the developing world rather than Europe or North America, he suggested.

"Today you see signs of vitality in the churches emerging: no one should be surprised if the pope came from a country in the developing world," he writes. "In any case, whatever its origin, the new pope should look carefully and speak the language of peripheral members of the Church: Asia, Africa, Latin America". It remains unclear just when the next pope will be chosen, as there is no modern precedent for a retiring pontiff.

In general, popes die in office. The last time a pope retired was some 600 years ago, so rules for the conclave of cardinals electing the next pope may not apply. Those rules say cardinals from around the world must gather 15 to 20 days after the pope's departure, which for Benedict XVI will be next Thursday.

However, some argue that since Benedict gave ample notice of his retirement plans, cardinals have had time to gather in Rome and many are already there.

Some reports have suggested the Church may want to accelerate proceedings in order to have a new pope installed before Palm Sunday on March 24, so he can preside at the Holy Week services leading up to Easter.

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