Papal Conclave: Runners and Riders
This article gives a brief overview of the leading candidates for pope. The 115 cardinals of the Catholic Church have begun their “papal conclave”—the mysterious meeting to elect one of their own as the new spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world. Popes are not just spiritual leaders, however. They are major international diplomats who frequently meet with presidents and prime ministers, and often issue statements on controversial social and political issues. For this reason, the world is watching Vatican City this week.
- The Catholic Church was founded in Europe, but today is an international religion. Catholics in Latin America and Africa outnumber Catholics in Europe. Do students think the papal enclave should recognize this and give special considerations to the cardinal-candidates from Ghana, Brazil, and Argentina?
- The outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, worked to establish dialogues with leaders of other world religions. Many cardinals hope the new pope continues this practice. Look at the “world religions” layer in our MapMaker Interactive. Are there religions with which students think the new pope should expand communication? Why? (Some Catholics think the new pope should expand the ongoing dialogue with Muslim and Jewish leaders, to help facilitate peace in the Middle East. In Africa and South America, indigenous religions often compete with Catholicism. Some Catholics think that greater understanding of these indigenous beliefs may reduce religious conflict and foster cooperation. Some Catholics seek greater unity within the umbrella of Christianity, and more open dialogue with Orthodox Christian and Protestant leaders may achieve that goal. As China and India increase their wealth and political stature, other Catholics think the new pope should deepen the relationship with Hindu and Buddhist leaders.)
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