Cover Story: The September Pope

John Paul I's sudden death stuns and saddens the Christian world

  • Share
  • Read Later

(8 of 10)

Even though he is 72— an age that may now be considered risky — Genoa's Cardinal Siri may wind up with the largest single bloc of votes on the first ballot at the new conclave, though he will almost certainly go no further. The Genoese arch bishop is a known foe of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council ("They will never bind us," he once said loftily of its pronouncements), and traditionalists who sympathize with his position have apparently supported him only as a gesture of conservative opposition. But Siri can not hope to add the additional 50 or so votes needed for election. This time Siri's less strident supporters may choose to try their luck by supporting Pericle Cardinal Felici, 67, an engaging but tough Curial conservative who managed the business of Vatican II without ever being caught up in its spirit.

That leaves only three major Italian sees with Cardinals who are papabili. Two are much in the mold of Luciani. The third is Benelli, the man who did much to promote Luciani's cause in the last election, but who may this time have a chance to be Pope instead of popemaker. The three:

CORRADO URSI, Archbishop of Naples, 70. Warmhearted, courageous, a champion of the poor and a friend of ecumenism, Corrado Ursi is the son of a baker from the Adriatic coast. Ursi went almost straight from ordination back into seminaries as a teacher, later a rector. In 1966, after being elevated to the See of Naples, he soon won admiration as a "good pastor." As Cardinal he not only visited his parishes but often stayed on for two or three days to learn their needs. Three years ago, when a cholera epidemic broke out in Naples, he visited the hospitals each day, personally giving the last rites to a dying woman. He annually leads clergy and lay people to the Anglican church in Naples for ecumenical services on Holy Saturday; he maintains cordial relations with the city's Communist administration. In sturdy good health despite his age, Ursi had a small core of support in the last election. If some former Luciani admirers shift to him, he could be ahead of the conservative bloc even on the first ballot. The frequently mentioned fact that he speaks only Italian and has never served outside Italy should weigh against Ursi less this time. As John Paul demonstrated, a generous heart crosses any border.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10