On 1996-FEB-22, Pope John Paul II updated the election procedures that will be in place
when his successor is chosen. Some of the major changes are:
Pope John Paul II asked that the person elected by the conclave not refuse the
honor because of fear or uncertainty.
Pope John Paul II also made an indirect change to the election of his successor.
He personally chose 114 out of the 117 cardinals who will elect his successor.
He consistently chose very conservative bishops and archbishops to be cardinals.
In recent centuries, the popes have almost always been selected from the
ranks of Italian cardinals. An exception is Pope John Paul II who was archbishop
of Krakow in Poland. He was elected in 1978 and remains the reigning pope.
Before him, Hadrian VI was the most recent non-Italian pope. He was
Dutch, was elected in 1522 CE, and reigned for only one and
a half years.
Observers are speculating whether the cardinals will revert to the church's
tradition and elect an Italian pope. In theory, any Roman Catholic can be
chosen. That gives them a choice from among over one billion baptized Catholics!
However, in practice, only cardinals have been selected in recent centuries.
Makeup of the church:
One of the most serious challenges faced by the church is due to its
worldwide reach. It is active within a wide range of cultures.
At the beginning of the 20th century, about 80% of Roman Catholics lived in
Europe or North American; most of the remainder were in Latin America. Now,
these values are reversed. Eight of ten Catholics are Latino, African or Asian.
A small minority is from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The word "catholic" in "Roman Catholic" means "universal."
Some observers feel that the church will find it increasingly difficult to
maintain a strong central control over the entire church from Rome, with
the same teachings, procedures and policies worldwide, and yet meet the needs of laity
from diverse cultures.
Stressors in the church:
Some laity and
leaders are strongly advocating for major reform within the church. This is
particularly noticeable in the American, Canadian and Dutch churches, where
advocate for greater openness, the replacement of autocratic, dictatorial
structures with democracy, greater participation by the laity at all levels of decision
making, and major changes to some long-standing church policies and procedures.
"Call to Action -- Catholics working together to foster peace & justice in
our world, our church and ourselves," lists major concerns in their "call
for reform in the catholic church:"