Do other Anglicans share my irritation at the unsolicited advice showered on the Catholic Church over the election of a new Pope?
Non-Catholics, even non-Christians, have been quick to tell the voting cardinals what kind of Pope they ought to want. They would do better to leave it to those who believe in the guiding power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has given some surprising guidance in recent memory. John XXIII, a "caretaker" Pope, turned out to be a revolutionary one. Even more startling and unpredictable consequences followed the surprise election a Polish Pope in 1978. And the papacy of Benedict XVI – reputedly a Vatican rottweiler – has earned the complaint that he was not rottweiler enough.
What Christian was not won over by Pope Benedict's benign demeanour and blunt words on his historic visit to London? Or by his inclusive language when reminding Christians of their Jewish roots? Or by his scholarly, but accessible appraisal of the Nativity narratives in his recent life of Jesus?
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Those who are so impatient to modernise the Papacy and the Roman Church should not confuse timeless values with old-fashioned ones. In 1798, when the 81-year-old Pope was a French prisoner, Prebendary Sturges of Winchester thought that when Pius VI died the Papacy would "not necessarily become extinct." Other modernisers of the day thought the Papacy would die with the eighteenth century. The future is evidently not easy to predict!
St Mary Magdalene