Voices from Russia

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Hopes for the New Pope

00 Pope Francisco Bergoglio. T-shirt. 23.03.13


As I stood on St Peter’s Square awaiting the famous smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. Daily, journalists, political analysts, and the public bemoan a lack of leadership in the world. On the other hand, here, here was a definitive opportunity to see a new leader in the making. After all, irrespective of who occupies the Holy See, the papacy has a potential for leadership that’s probably only rivalled by the potential of the office of the US President.

Already, Pope Francisco shows that he’s keen to give the Catholic Church a new sense of itself. His gestures (like shunning an armoured limousine with a bodyguard and going to pray at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore on short notice) demonstrate that “leading by example” isn’t just an empty concept for the new pontiff. I have a feeling that he’ll be a respected global figure, both as a spiritual leader and statesman. Actually, if one looks around the world, there are plenty of leaders. Although I didn’t approve of his policies, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was one. Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma is yet another example of charisma, ideas, and perseverance fusing to create a real leader. Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, despite their bitter hatred of each other and no matter what one thinks of their policies, have already left their mark on history.

Curiously enough, the emergence of major political personalities in the EU is an increasingly-rare occasion. European leaders aren’t almost universally dull and uncharismatic, but they’re also mostly mediocre intellectually. A few bright exceptions, like the clever and ironic Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the President of Estonia, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Tomasz Sikorski, and Sweden’s long-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs (and former Premier) Nils Daniel Carl Bildt are the only exceptions I could find. They combine sharp intellect, willingness to challenge dated truisms, and a public presence. The EU is the only area of the world where these characteristics frequently disqualify a person from achieving major public office. What started as a European post-war yearning to avoid future conflict morphed into complacency and a fear of healthy debate. Don’t mention religion (except if it’s the infamous “religion of peace” of 9/11 fame), don’t mention national history, don’t mention values… unless it’s the prescribed medley of secularist dogmas on permanent offer from Brussels… and you can count on great advancement as a political leader in the EU’s councils of the holy … er, sorry, just councils.

Hence, the result… if you’re looking for fresh thinking in Europe, you’re left with either the Front National and its imitators, the “New Left”, or clowns like Beppe Grillo (but then, who said they’re actually thinking anything?) Actually, Grillo’s astonishingly-high standing is sharp and dark testimony to European disillusionment with traditional politics and their inability to cope with it. It’s no wonder the EU can’t find its way out of the current crisis… the politics of consensus evolved into a politics of paralysis. I don’t think highly of Barack Obama’s policies and I don’t find him a very effective leader, but those European politicians who pledge their love to him look small compared to the US President. In contrast, here comes Pope Francisco, who may well try to shake up Europe’s lethargic Catholics into remembering that they are Christians… and Catholics… after all. I wish him success, but I’m not very certain that he’ll succeed in the Old World. For leadership and vision these days, it’s more logical to look to Brazil, rather than to Brussels.

18 March 2013

Konstantin von Eggert




Wednesday, 13 March 2013

13 March 2013. One Orthodox Journalist’s Take on the Conclave to Elect a New Pope of Rome

00 Sistine Chapel Rome. 13.03.13


After a fat pope, a skinny pope.

Old Italian folk-saying

This old Roman saying is true more often than not. That is, a certain “type” of pope is very often followed by someone who’s his temperamental opposite. Ergo, if one were to look at the last Pope of Rome, one had to conclude that he was:

  • An intellectual and scholar
  • A curial insider
  • A man with not much pastoral background
  • A theologian
  • A theoretician

If the folk-wisdom is true, then, the cardinals may very well choose someone who is:

  • A curial outsider
  • A man of considerable pastoral background
  • A pragmatist
  • Someone able to get on well with those of opposite intellectual and political tendencies

I can guarantee that none of the American cardinals will get the nod. All of them have compromised themselves with their support of the Republican Party’s anti-life programme, something that the American cardinals don’t see because of the GOP’s anti-abortion plank. However, rest assured that the European majority of the cardinal-electors do see it… no American cardinal will win election as they’re seen as intransigent and tied up with the American Establishment (Dolan’s the worst one… but O’Malley’s almost as bad). Don’t forget, Benedict made universal access to state-provided healthcare a tenet of Catholic social teaching. The American bishops’ caterwauling over the ACA (which gave aid and comfort to godless rightwingers) showed their disconnect with the Church of Rome at large.

I believe that a non-European may very well get the nod. Turkson and Scherer look good… The Italians are going to push hard for one of their own at first… then, reality will sink in. Remember, no American can win because of their incestuous entanglement with American political elements intent on global hegemony. In 1978, the conclave selected Karol Wojtyła because the Curia was convinced that the Soviet bloc was the wave of the future, and that the Catholic Church had best have someone with experience of working with communists at the helm. Today, many curial insiders see the main thrust of the Church of Rome as combating sectarian proselytism in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s why I named the two men that I did.

The Curia sees the future in Latin America and Africa. That’s how I read the tealeaves. However, all’s up for grabs if the conclave goes beyond three days. I don’t think that it’ll take that long… but one never does know…



Tuesday, 12 March 2013

12 March 2013. RIA-Novosti Infographics. How a Conclave Elects a Pope of Rome

00 RIA-Novosti Infographics. How a Conclave Elects a Pope of Rome. 2013


On 12 March, at the Vatican, the first meeting will begin conclave to elect a new pope will hold its first session. The election will bring together 115 cardinal-electors, whose average age is 72. The colour of the smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel reveals the result of the voting. Learn more about an election of the Pope of Rome in this Infographic.

On the first day of the conclave, after Mass, the cardinals, dressed in red vestments and capes, over white surplices (liturgical overtunic), gather in the Hall of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace. They process with the cross and the gospel to the Sistine Chapel, singing a Litany of the Saints. On arrival in the chapel, the cardinal-electors pray that God sends down to them the gift of the Holy Spirit, singing the hymn Veni Creator, then, take an oath to reveal nothing that occurs in the conclave. The rules allow journalists and official Vatican press aides to be in the Sistine Chapel to cover this event.

Possible successors to Pope Benedict >>

After the oath, the Master of Ceremonies says, “Extra omnes” (“All others, leave”), and those who aren’t conclave participants must leave the Chapel. Only the cardinal-electors may be in the Chapel during the balloting, so, soon after the distribution of ballots, the Master of Ceremonies must leave, too. Then, one of the cardinal-deacons locks the door behind him with a key.

Who will lead the Vatican? >>

The only valid form of voting is by secret ballot. An election is valid if any of the candidates achieves a two-thirds majority. If the number of electors participating in the conclave is not a multiple of three, the election of a new pope requires a two-thirds majority plus one.

12 March 2013




Conclave Unable to Elect a New Pope in the First Round of Voting

00 The New Pope. 12.03.13


00 The Election of a Pope. Infographic. 12.03.13


Participants in the Vatican conclave, which shall elect the 266th Pope of Rome, failed to elect a pope in the first round of voting… black smoke rose from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace. When the conclave elects a new First Hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church, the world will know it, for white smoke will emerge from the Sistine Chapel chimney.

History of the conclaves to elect the Pope of Rome >>

115 members of the College of Cardinals are taking part in the conclave. They’ve pledged to adhere to rules for the conclave found in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (The Lord’s Whole Flock), and to not reveal anything connected with the election of the pope. To win election to the Apostolic See, the next pope will have to win the support of at least two-thirds of the cardinal-electors, that is, he must win at least 77 votes in the conclave election.

Procedure for the election of the Pope of Rome>>

Despite rain in Rome, a crowd of believers in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican awaited the news of the outcome of the first round of voting, which began after 17.30 CET (09.30 PDT. 12.30 EDT. 16.30 UTC. 20.30 MSK. 03.30 Wednesday AEST) and lasted about two hours.

Chronicle of the first day of the conclave to elect a new pope >>

After voting, the cardinals will serve vespers, then, the “princes of the Church” will go to the Domus Sanctæ Marthæ (St Martha’s House), where they’ll rest until tomorrow morning. On Wednesday, and on all following days, the conclave will hold ballots per day until it elects a new Pope of Rome, but there will only be two burnings of the ballots per day (and, thus, two “smokes” per day)… one in morning, and the other in the evening.

12 March 2013

Sergei Startsev

Natalia Shmakova



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