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RELIGION: Disputes Grow Around Ratzinger

Elisa Marincola

ROME, Apr 15 2005 (IPS) - Cardinal Josef Ratzinger is emerging as the most talked about, and the most controversial candidate in the selection of a new pope.

One senior Vatican correspondent says the selection of Josef Ratzinger, the German cardinal who was the right hand man of Pope John Paul II is as good as done. That would mean the Catholic church becomes even more centralist and conservative than it was under John Paul II.

Some of the most popular acts of John Paul II such as the interreligious meetings and the “mea culpa (acknowledging the guilt of the Church) would be set aside. The Church would begin a struggle against “Western evil”, Vatican expert Sandro Magister told IPS.

Ratzinger has said that the real conflict will not come between the Church and Islam, but between the Church and “the radical emancipation of man from God and from the roots of life” that characterizes contemporary Western culture and “leads in the end to the destruction of freedom.”

Ratzinger, who is being supported strongly by Camillo Ruini being presented by the Ratzinger group as the next secretary of state of the Vatican government (the Vatican is in many respects like a state) has said that the culture of Europe today “is absolutely the most radical contradiction of Christianity, but also of the religious and moral traditions of the entire humanity.”

Ratzinger wants to cleanse the Church of “filthiness”, reinforce the doctrinal and moral formation of the clergy, and bring a new missionary campaign. Moves in this direction have already brought a reconciliation with the U.S. administration.

But Cardinal Ratzinger, chief of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is unpopular with large sections of the Church for his antimodernist positions and for methodically persecuting and silencing dissenters.

His neoconservative thrust has run into resistance within the Church. The reportedly harsh discussions at the conclave to select a new pope have been testimony to that, Vatican sources say.

Ratzinger is being opposed by several U.S. and Northern European cardinals. Europe has 58 of the 117 cardinals. The United States and Africa have 11 each, and Latin America 21. But voting will not necessarily take place along national or regional lines.

Many voices within the Church have spoken of the need for a pope from the South. “The South has large support from some European cardinals too,” Gianni Avena, editor-in-chief of the news agency Adista that specialises in religious issues told IPS. “But no Asian cardinal will vote for an African one, an African for a Latin American, and so on.”

The move to select a pope with more progressive views has been led by the former popable cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. The former archbishop of Milan, now living in retirement in Jerusalem seems to be building an alliance between the Southern cardinals and the Italians, to seek a clear change.

Many cardinals in this group will look for less “Wojtylism” (after the name of John Paul II), Avena said. That means a pope who will not be the only leading actor, and who will go for more collegiality in the decision-making processes.

They would also want to cut down the power of the ecclesiastical movements. Some of these, like Opus Dei, grew more powerful under the papacy of Wojtyla, monopolised many spaces and church structures, and reduced the role of the bishops.

An announcement of a new pope is expected Apr. 18 or shortly after.

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