“By what name shall you be called?”

Within a month or so, one of the 117 Cardinal electors will be asked that question by the Dean of the Conclave. You can just bet some of them are already working out the answer they will give just in case. (They will deny this, of course, but if we are thinking about it, they will be too.) In the last few days there has been plenty of reflection on the significance of the name chosen by Joseph Ratzinger eight years ago (here is one example from L’osservatore Romano).

Josh’s post on this matter prompted me to post on the same subject.

I have been reading several pieces by George Weigel in the last few days (eg. here in First Things and here on the ABC Religion and Ethics Website). I have ordered his new book Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church. His thesis, broadly stated, is that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have completed an arc begun by Leo XIII, which is the rejection of an inward looking Counter-Reformation institutionalism in favour of the outward looking “Evangelical Catholicism” of the title.

I also read somewhere the comment that the new pope will need the strength of a whole pride of lions to face the challenges ahead (can’t find the source of that comment just now, but I think it was in L’osservatore Romano somewhere).

Anyway, putting all that together, and counting that we won’t get a brand new name or Peter II or some such thing, and at the same time discounting the idea that we will get another Pius, John, Paul, or Benedict – all of which have been rather done over in the last hundred years – my money is on “Leo XIV”. It would be a neat way of stating that the new pope ain’t going to be a pussy cat in the face of the huge challenges ahead, and at the same time drawing together the whole arc of the history of the modern papacy, don’t you think?

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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22 Responses to “By what name shall you be called?”

  1. adam says:

    David, in an interview last year the emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor who voted in the 2005 conclave, admitted he DID go into the conclave with the name, should he become pope. So he admitted it and most likely many other cardinals have done and will continue to do so come March and in future conclaves.

  2. Chris Burgwald says:

    Leo XIV… I like it *a lot*, David!

    • Schütz says:

      Hey, Chris, how ya goin’? Thanks for dropping by! I’ve been listening to you and Fr Andrew on your podcasts. I must give you guys a lug on this ‘ere blog – altho I did include your program last year in a review in our Archdiocesan rag, the Kairos. Maybe if you put he Leo XIV suggestion out there, the next pope will hear your podcast and pick the idea up!

      BTW, has your dissertation been published as a book or have you written anything else recently? I was contacted by an LCMS pastor who wrote “It is an unspeakable sadness also for this Lutheran to bid farewell to the one pope who had actually bothered to read and understand our beloved Reformer”.

  3. David Kennedy says:

    It’s funny you should mention Leo. I was thinking the very same thing yesterday.

  4. matthias says:

    I think Leo XIV would be good although if the new Pope came from Africa he could perhaps choose an appropriate name perhaps Africanus I .
    We live in interesting times. what is the bet that protestant prophetic web sites will be going to town when the next Pope is elected. perhaps seeing him as being the last
    Pope. Raiders news On line being one example of this

  5. Joshua says:

    Well, there have already been three (North) African Popes:

    Gelasius I (492-496)
    Miltiades/Melchiades (311-314)
    Victor I (189-199, approx.)

    – so any of those names would be appropriate for an African Cardinal to choose:
    so, we could end up with Victor IV, or Gelasius III, or Miltiades II (though I will admit the last in particular is an unlikely choice).

    If His Eminence of Sydney is elected, of course, we may be blessed with Bruce I…

    • Peregrinus says:

      Mmm. While we might think that the most interesting thing about an African pope is that he’s African, the man himself is not likely to think that. Names indicating that you are foreign or exotic or come from somewhere else are bestowed on you by others, they’re not the names you choose for yourself.

      Or, more briefly, Mary Magdalene was probably not known by that name until she settled somewhere other than Magdala.

    • adam says:

      hahahaha I like that. After the Habemus Papam on the baslcony Pell, oops, Pope Bruce I could come out and greet the thousands with a warm greeting
      ‘G’day there, its been a bonza conclave……..she’s apples now…….’
      But I doubt it very very much. I would be bold as to say he will not emerge after the white smoke. Watch for a Scola, a Tagle or a South American from Sao Paolo or a Canadian who lives in Rome.
      Well, after all, everyone else is taking a guess……

  6. Peter says:

    Like you David,I have also ordered George Weigel’s book.
    Can’t wait for it to arrive.It received a great review in Inside the Vatican.

  7. matthias says:

    Thanks for that Joshua,imagine if women were in the clergy and a female Pope was elected from Australia -Narelle I. more likely a female archbishop in the See of Canterbury !! Cramner would flip.

    However were these African popes from the North?

    • Joshua says:

      Yes, they were.

      And as for H.E. of Sydney, you may have heard my awfully weak joke about last Conclave – recall the scene, with the new Pope on the central loggia of the Vatican, and the Cardinals crowding the side balconies: well, H.E. is heard to say mournfully, “At least I got one vote”!

      (Regretfully, I have since read somewhere that Cardinals cannot vote for themselves…)

      Only joshing!

  8. Ian says:

    My money is on Angelo Cardinal Scola; son of a truck driver; solid theologian with particular interests in the theology of marriage, family and sexuality. He has a good track record on clergy formation and pastoral outreach to youth. PLUS he is Italian and Archbishop of Milan. Milan and Venice have a pretty good batting average in recent centuries when it comes to producing popes. I suspect we will see a return of the papacy to Italy this time around…and maybe that is fitting. The Pope is after all Bishop of Rome.

  9. marcel says:

    +Ranjith of Colombo.

    Pius XIII would be good.

    • Schütz says:

      Why? What would “Pius XIII” mean? Why would a newly elected pope want to choose this name?

      • marcel says:

        Because Pius X was the last canonized, and Pius V before him. Pius IX should be the next canonized pope, followed by Pius XII. Piuses seem to have a good record and it might signal a tilt towards traditionalism. Those are my views as a lay Catholic with no inside scoop on what is really happening or about to happen.

  10. John Nolan says:

    I personally would prefer Bagnasco over Scola. The only African with any clout is Arinze, and he’s too old. North America – Burke would be great but Ouellet is probably the only one in with a chance. In both conclaves of 1978 there was a liberal/conservative polarization which led to compromise candidates being elected. This is no longer the case, so whoever is elected will be in continuity with B XVI.

    I predict that if Bagnasco is elected he will take the name Gregory, which by all accounts was favoured by his mentor Cardinal Siri, who was papabile in no fewer than four conclaves.

    • Joshua says:

      So Gregory XVII then?

      I must find out more about Siri… I’ve heard his name bandied about (usually, alas, as regards wild-eyed conspiracy theories), but don’t know anything about him really.

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