The Catholic Church is at a pivotal crossroads. Many are still processing the events of the past three weeks. For the first time in 600 years, a Pope resigned.
Then just a few days before the Conclave to elect the next Pope, a Cardinal withdrew because of sexual abuse charges.
These events come on the heels of the most massive and damaging leak of insider information to the media in the history of the Church. Current reports suggest some high-ranking officials are now being wiretapped by Vatican security.
The decision made by the Cardinals, and the leadership qualities of the next Pope, will shape the world of the twenty-first century. Here is my humble advice on what qualities and values will matter most:
1. Transparency: Louis Brandeis once said that “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Leading an institution rocked by several scandals in an age where information flows widely and rapidly, the next Pope needs to bring in some sunshine.
Greater transparency does not mean a change in doctrine. It does not demand any watering down of Church doctrine. It is not a call for greater liberalism.
It is simply a call for honesty. It is a call to match words with deed and hold leadership accountable to the people that make up the Church.
2. Courage: Leadership is not easy. It is even harder when you are responsibility for a 2000 year old institutions with over a billion adherents. The decisions the Pope makes will determine what kind of institution the Church will be.
While I have my own preferences, the decision is not mine. All I hope for is that whoever it is leads with courage of his convictions. This is not a time for a caretaker or a puppet for some other power. It is a time for visionary leadership.
3. Humility: The Pope traditionally wears a ring on his third finger known as the “Fisherman’s Ring.” It honors Saint Peter, a fisherman, and the early apostles, who were known as “fishers of men.”
The ring also can also symbolize the simplicity and humility of the fisherman. He must be patient, watchful and able to navigate through waves and rough currents.
He also depends on something much vaster than himself. The sea may seem empty and overwhelming at times, but it is the source of life and sustenance. So it is with the Pope (and any faith leader).
Ultimately, we do not depend on ourselves. We align ourselves with a power greater than ourselves.
It is my hope and prayer that this Power will be with the next Pope, and all those whom he leads and inspires.
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