Venice Cardinal Projecting Dynamic Image
Apr 13, 2005
Cardinal Angelo Scola has glided down the Grand Canal in a sleek black gondola, started a cross-cultural magazine and traveled to Kenya to meet parishioners of an Italian priest, enlivening a resume heavy on theological credentials.
(obviousnews.com April 12 2005) Since 2002, Scola has been patriarch of Venice, an archdiocese that saw three of its cardinals become popes in the last century: Pius X in 1903; John XXIII in 1958 and John Paul I in 1978.
Scola is one of the youngest and newest princes of the Church. He was made a cardinal in 2003, the last time Pope John Paul II bestowed the red hats in his papacy.
At 63, he might appeal to cardinals looking to elect a pope who seems still dynamic after poor health forced John Paul to drastically reduce his public engagements in his last years.
Scola‘s staunch conservatism — he is opposed to women becoming priests — might reassure those keen on preserving John Paul‘s legacy of fiercely defending Church teaching on moral and social issues.
Catholic News Service, the news agency of the U.S. Bishops Conference, recently rated Scola, the son of a northern Italian truck driver and homemaker, as perhaps the "most formidable Italian candidate for the papacy."
Italians dominated the papacy for centuries and are likely to try to regain their hold, broken in 1978 by the surprise election of the Polish-born John Paul.
Affable and proud of his working-class roots, Scola seems likely to project an accessible image. But he is short on pastoral work with rank-and-file faithful, and that could hurt him, coming after a pope who reached out to his flock worldwide.
Scola spent the first two decades after his 1970 ordination in the lecture halls and libraries of renowned Catholic universities and theological training grounds, notably in Fribourg, Switzerland, and the Lateran Pontifical University in Rome.
Scola worked closely with Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss priest considered to be one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and with von Balthasar‘s Jesuit teacher, Henri de Lubac.
Von Balthasar, along with John Paul II‘s close aide Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, were at the forefront of a conservative movement to reevaluate the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s.
While pursuing theological studies, Scola was involved in Communion and Liberation, a conservative Italian Catholic group which blends political activism with faith-based fervor as it seeks to make its weight felt in the country‘s decision-making.
Some Christian Democrat ministers and other political figures have been close to the movement.
The Vatican‘s official biography of Scola says he stopped active participation in Communion and Liberation in 1991 when John Paul appointed him bishop of Grosseto, a small city in central Italy.
Venice offered a particular challenge for a pastor — the flock is shrinking, but not necessarily for crises in faith.
The lagoon city‘s native population has been dwindling for decades because of the soaring prices of food and other necessities, which have to be delivered by foot or boat in the car-free city, and the damage to housing stock by high tides.
Scola decided to rent out vacant apartments in church property to young couples and families.
Reminiscent of John Paul‘s pilgrimages to countries where Catholics are a tiny minority, Scola last year journeyed to Kenya to visit a parish whose pastor is Venetian.
Venice boasts a history as a bridge between West and East from its days as a seafaring power and a cosmopolitan crossroads between the Holy Roman Empire and Byzantium. Scola quickly drew on this traditional mix, starting a magazine called Oasis, to emphasize links between Western Christians and countries where Muslims are the majority.
Scola has been quoted as saying: "Either integration occurs in Europe or I don‘t know where it could happen."
An Internet enthusiast, Scola can been seen in photos on the patriarchate‘s Web site riding in a gondola toward the dock near St. Mark‘s Basilica to take up his post.
Scola is a prolific writer, although his essays and articles make for rather dense reading. He has written extensively on Satanism, a hot topic as the Vatican worries about the devil‘s lure, particularly with young people.
His conservative views on morality led to his appointment as an adviser to the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The cardinal has echoed the pope in his denunciation of excess consumerism. "The lifestyle of the West tends toward the obscene," the Italian newsweekly Panorama quoted Scola as saying.
The cardinal has also embraced John Paul‘s closing the door to the possibility of women priests.
"The Church does not have the power to modify the practice, uninterrupted for 2,000 years, of calling only men" to the priesthood, Scola told reporters in 1997.