Whoever is named the new Pope, he must address the issue of religious freedom around the world and must continue to reform the Catholic Church, Catholic Association senior fellow Ashley McGuire tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
“This is going to be one of the top issues that the next pope will have to deal with,” McGuire tells Newsmax, referring to religious freedom. “Just the fact that, in the United States of America, which is supposed to be a beacon of freedom to the world, religious freedom has really been at the forefront of the national conversation and is the key issue challenging the Catholic Church.
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“It just gives you a sense of what the rest of the world must look like,” she adds. “In America, it’s a non-violent issue, but in other parts of the world, Christians are literally being eliminated. There’s places in the Middle East where their populations are down to the hundreds. This is going to be one of the most essential issues that the next pope will have to deal with.”
And, as for reforming the church, “There is a general consensus among Catholics that there is a need for continued reform,” McGuire says. “Pope Benedict [XVI] really instigated a lot of reforms during his tenure and paved the way for his successor to continue with those reforms.
“It’s not really controversial to say that there are some things that need to change — and many of the frontrunners are frontrunners because they’re courageous men who would continue carrying on the church’s teachings, many of which are controversial, while trying to adhere to a certain level of integrity inside the Vatican.”
On Tuesday, the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals comprising the Papal Conclave began their efforts in earnest toward selecting a new Pope. They are meeting in the Sistine Chapel, where they will remain until a new pontiff is selected.
The first ballot could be cast as early as Tuesday night — and the only indication of progress will be the smoke coming from the Sistine’s chimney: white if a new Pope is selected, black if the vote is inconclusive. Black smoke rose from the chimney at 7:42 p.m., Vatican time, on Tuesday.
Voting was expected to resume on Wednesday, the Vatican News Service reports.
“It’s impossible to predict exactly when we’ll know, but what I’m hearing from most people is the expectation is that it’s going to be on the quicker side,” McGuire tells Newsmax. “Because of new rules instigated by Pope Benedict, if they have not reached an agreement by Friday, they have to take a full-day break — and the cardinals want to avoid that because of the appearance of division and because many of them are eager to get back to their respective dioceses before Holy Week begins.”
And while two American cardinals — Timothy Dolan of New York and Sean O’Malley of Boston — remain on the short list, others also rumored to be include Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil and Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy.
“Every Vatican watcher that I’ve talked to has placed them in their top five,” McGuire tells Newsmax of Dolan and O’Malley. “Whether or not we end up with an American pope is impossible to predict, but it’s worth noting that it’s actually historic that they’re considered front-runners. That’s never happened before.
“And another frontrunner is Ouellet of Canada, so there are three what you would call ‘New World papabilis’ on the list. That in of itself is historic.”
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