It is exceedingly unlikely that anyone will ask my advice about who should be our next Holy Father.
Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about my hopes for the new Pope. I have no particular interest in the “inside baseball” issues of reforming the Curia, or governing the Vatican Bank, and I imagine that most Catholics share my disinterest.
More than anything, I would like our next Vicar of Christ to be the embodiment of the New Evangelization. My humble suggestions would be for the Cardinals to elect a man who can do the following:
Call people in an attractive, compelling way to unity with Jesus through the teaching of the Church, the Sacraments, and the fellowship of other Catholics. This is the essence of the Christian mission, a point repeatedly made by Popes John Paul and Benedict, and if it is fulfilled boldly, it will appeal to those who are searching for meaning and love in their lives.
Continue to show the world the love that God has for every individual human person, through the apostolic work by the institutional Church and individuals. Our Church has demonstrated repeatedly that no person is left out of the human community, and our duty of solidarity and charity extends to all.
Encourage more regular Catholic people to give witness to the joy that comes from living the truths of our faith and their personal friendship with Jesus. To paraphrase Pope Paul VI, the world will not listen to teachers, but it will listen to teachers who are witnesses. In a world of sadness and distress, the path to true happiness leads to the arms of Jesus — and we will only convince people of this by our lives, not by our words alone.
Adapt to new modes of communication so that the more people can come to know the love of Jesus and the “ever ancient, ever new” truths of our faith. By this, I don’t just mean the mechanisms of communication (internet, social media, etc.), but an appeal to the modern sensibility in which emotional and social experience are paramount.
Strive for unity with other Christian communities, and comity and good relations with non-Christians. This is an irrevocable commitment of the Church, one that we cannot allow to falter out of discouragement or hostility.
Stand as a courageous counter-witness to a world that believes that faith is nonsense, that God is irrelevant, and that pleasure is all. Man searches for meaning endlessly, and our unquiet hearts can only find rest in the one, true God. The new pope would have but to look to the lesson of his two predecessors, who were outstanding public witnesses.
Of course, the personal qualities of the Holy Father are not as important as the reality of his office, since it is only by being in communion with the Bishop of Rome that I can be fully incorporated into the Church established by Christ Himself.
One thing is certain. We should all join in prayer for our Church, and for the cardinals who are entering the conclave on Tuesday.
Veni Creator Spiritus!