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Pope John Paul II

Legacy of the Pope and Selection of a Successor

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo
Assistant Professor of Systemic Theology, Seton Hall University
Monday, April 4, 2005; 1:00 PM

The funeral for Pope John Paul II will be held at 10 a.m. local time Friday (4 a.m. EDT), the College of Cardinals decided Monday in its first meeting since the death of John Paul.

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Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the cardinals had determined that the funeral would be held in St. Peter's Square. Afterward the pope will be buried in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica.

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo, assistant professor of systemic theology at Seton Hall University and former personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, was online Monday, April 4, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the legacy of the pope and the selection of a successor.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: These days are filled with real emotion for me personally, having known Pope John Paul II personally. The events of the last days are truly dramatic and very significant.


washingtonpost.com: Father Figueiredo, thank you for joining us online today. You at one time served as the Pope's personal assistant. What was John Paul like to work for?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Unfailingly gracious. Unfailingly polite. A man who knew where he stood. A man who knew what the world needed at this particular moment, but who always valued every single person in front of him. He was the most important person in the world but he treated me and others as if we were the most important person in the world. That's a saint.


Washington, D.C.: I know you've probably been through this many times before, but would you mind giving us a schedule for the rest of the events of this week?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: The funeral takes place Friday. We have now entered a period of mourning and prayer for John Paul II. Most likely the next day, or probably Monday, the cardinals will begin to meet in a pre-Conclave discussing really the formalities and the needs of the church. That will last until April 17, I think. On April 17, more or less, we shall begin the Conclave proper.

The Conclave is specifically to pray and to elect. Thereafter we leave it to the Holy Spirit until the pope is elected.


Fairfax, Va.: Is it true that you don't have to be a cardinal to be considered for the papacy?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Any baptized man is eligible to be pope as long as they are prepared to be ordained priest and bishop.


Washington, D.C.: How fast do you think a pope will be decided upon? Is there any concern as to the length of time between Pope John Paul and the choosing of a successor?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Pope John Paul named all but three of the 117 cardinals who will choose his successor. We can be certain then that the church will continue with his very spirit; however, the pope himself, John Paul II, has stated that he would wish that the Conclave was "harmonious, fruitful and rapid."


Bethesda, Md.: Papal biographer George Weigel today over the weekend that nationality and race will mean nothing in choosing a new pope. Do you agree with that assessment?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Ultimately, the Holy Spirt transcends human qualities; however, I believe that the cardinals will look for a man who is internationally oriented with an openness to going to the ends of the world to announce the good news.


Washington, D.C.: Reverend Figueiredo,
Is there a strong African candidate as a potential successor?

Thank you.

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Cardinal Arinze is being speculated upon. I have some doubts only because he is a cardinal who works at the Vatican. I believe that the pastoral experience of a diocese will be key for the next pope. Apart from Cardinal Arinze, there is no other cardinal that I can really think of who would be suitable.


Washington, D.C.: I understand there are a couple of secret cardinals, named so because their situation is too dangerous to be known publicly. Being in that situation, how can they participate in the conclave? Or will they?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: As soon as the pope died, those secret cardinals also lost their positions. In fact, there was only one at the end and we think that was his secretary, Archbishop Dziwisz. My hunch is that the next pope will name Archbishop Dziwisz a cardinal very soon.


Lewes, Del.: Was Pope John Paul the longest reigning pope? If not, who was?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: The third longest-reigning pope. We believe the longest was St. Peter himself and after him I believe Pope Pius IX in the nineteenth century.


Washington, D.C.: I thought Pope John Paul's body would be inside some kind of air-tight chamber while he lies in state but he's just out there with no protection. Aren't they afraid of the body becoming damaged?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: I believe when any person is waked they would be exposed in the same way. That can last a couple of days. The body has been embalmed and we also trust in the providence of the Holy Spirit to preserve our Holy Father.


Midatlantic -- Northeast: Pope John Paul II is said to have received "the sacrament for the sick and dying" instead of calling it Last Rites, as had been the more current terminology, or Extreme Unction, as we were taught in the past. Why the change in wording? Isn't it the same sacrament, regardless of what it's called? Thank you for taking my question.

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: The very same sacrament. The church believes that the Sacrament of the Sick can be given on numerous occasions for someone who is seriously sick, hoping that the person will recover but ultimately that God's will may be done. For that reason, the sacrament can be repeated and it would not be appropriate to reduce it to Last Rights or Extreme Unction. The last time someone received the sacrament would be the Last Rights.


Washington, D.C.: This may seem like a frivolous question, especially in the context of the deep sadness and mourning that so many people are experiencing right now, but I really have always wondered ...
Would you please explain the reason that the pope is given his official name, i.e. "John Paul"? How is the name chosen? Do we know what the next pope will be called?
Thank you

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: When the pope is elected in the Conclave the cardinal overseeing the procedure will walk over to the newly elected pope in the Sistine Chapel and will ask him two questions: Do you accept to be pope? Secondly, What name do you take?

Pope John Paul II wanted to continue in the footsteps of his two predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John XXIII.

What the name of the next pope will be is known only to the Holy Spirit at this moment.


Melbourne Beach, Fla.: Rev. Figueiredo: For the average lay Catholic, the legacy of Pope John Paul II is a confusing one. He has championed very liberal social justice and human rights issues, while also maintaining a strict adherence to very conservative church doctrine. This dichotomy creates difficulty in processing the pope's great body of work. How do you think his accomplishments will eventually be seen by the majority of the American population -- Catholic and non-Catholic?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: There is no dichotomy. There is a constant element which runs through all of the pope's teachings and actions. That is, the dignity of the human person. For Americans, this is an especially important teaching in the faith of moral relativism, ranging from violence or terrorism to abortion and euthanasia.


Washington, D.C.: Is the Catholic church losing converts?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: Unfortunately I agree. This will be a great challenge for the next pope -- the need to evangelize both proclaiming what has always been taught and in new ways too. So great is this challenge because in western Europe the church has almost become irrelevant. In South America, many Catholics are turning to the sects. The church through John Paul II has encouraged already new ways such as new movements. It is now up to the bishops to follow the pope's endorsement of these new ways.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Thank you for taking questions, Reverend. I am one of many "lapsed" Catholics who split from the church due to some of its more conservative stances on issues. Having said that, I always loved this Pope and was deeply touched by his humanity and compassion. My question is, doesn't the Pope's insistence on not returning to the hospital for more aggressive treatment that may have kept him alive reflect a somewhat inconsistent view vis-a-vis church doctrine on preserving and extending life, even if extraordinary means are necessary?
Thank you again, and please accept my heartfelt condolences on your personal loss.

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: I am grateful. I believe that the greatest gift you can give the Holy Father is to come back to the church. When someone is near death we must make a decision based on faith and reason. We do everything we can to preserve life but there comes a moment when we need to let go. St. Therese of Lisieuz used to put it this way: "I am not dying. I am entering eternal life."

Pope John Paul II himself once said, "I think of the day when God will call me from life to life."


Alexandria, Va.: Do you think the church will loosen up on its stand on allowing women to become priests and birth control? And what about homosexuality?

Rev. Anthony Figueiredo: The teachings on birth control and women priests have been taught by the church for 2,000 years. They are unchangeable teachings. For the teaching on homosexuality, hear this: The church loves the person but not the act.


washingtonpost.com: That ends our discussion today with Father Figueiredo. Please consult our Live Online schedule for more discussions about the papacy. Thank you.


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