"He is the man of the future"
Apr 17, 2005
Also Oct. 17, CNN conducted an interview with Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice, who became a cardinal Oct. 21, and I was invited to tag along. Given that Venice produced three popes in the 20th century (Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul I), many eyes are on Scola as possible papal material, though he modestly insisted that "it is not my case."
(National Catholic Reporter, Oct 24 2003) Scola's most fascinating comment came before the cameras rolled, while we were chatting in St. Peter's Square. As we stood there, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna approached and said hello. Schönborn is himself widely mentioned as a papal candidate, and as he walked away, Scola said unexpectedly: "He is the man of the future."
I immediately asked, "In what sense?"
"I think you understood me," Scola replied. "In every sense."
As a footnote, the next day I was with another cardinal chatting in an informal setting, when I happened to recount this exchange with Scola. The cardinal looked at me in great earnest and said: "He's absolutely right."
Scola took the questions from CNN in Italian, though his English is actually fairly good, the result in part of having spent some time at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Asked about the challenges facing the Church, Scola said the principal one was identified by Pope Paul VI: the "fracture" between the Church and contemporary culture.
"It's very difficult to determine whether this is the fault of the world that has abandoned the Church, or the Church that does not know how to relate to the world," Scola said.
Using the image of Christ presenting Mary and John to one another as he hung on the cross, Scola argued that Christianity was born in that moment as a new set of relationships, a new kind of family rooted in something deeper than flesh and blood. He said that the Church must find a way of making that idea of family real in today's culture.
Asked about Church teaching on hot-button sexual issues such as birth control, divorce and celibacy, Scola replied that no one can truly say "I love you" without adding, at least implicitly, "forever." Permanent commitment is implied in the very sense of "love," he said.
As to whether celibacy contributes to the priest shortage, Scola said that you can't deal with this issue from a quantitative perspective, but rather the focus must be on "the quality of the nature of the priest."