The global media have never had a conclave without a papal burial and the solemn majesty of bidding farewell to one pontiff before the election of another.
I am packing my bags and arrive in Rome next week, but already it's clear what is happening.
The media are running hard with reports on the pasts and backgrounds of the papabile, assessing the leading candidates, their chances and their faults. This will be the first time that the internecine and complex process of selecting The Vicar of Christ will run headlong into the fast, furious coverage in mainstream media, much less the often snarky writers of the blogosphere and new news organization in the digital realm.
Already, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana has taken hits in the New York Times for his statements on gays and other reports on an inflammatory anti-Islamic film he is reported to have shown.
Contrast the coverage of Turkson with the initial analysis of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri who has the great advantage of being an Argentine whose parents emigrated from Italy. A perfect combination: Third World and Italian fused into one man. He also has long experience in the Roman Curia. The Curia — unlike the College of Cardinals — is a heavily Italian institution and the Italian cardinals will coalesce behind one candidate by the time the conclave doors close.
The question for now is whether it will be Cardinal Angelo Scola, the erudite, multilingual Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, the largest archdiocese in the world with 5 million congregants? Or Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council on Culture, who quotes Kierkegaard and the Psalms in equal measure and whose encyclicals, were he to be elected pope, might even rise to scrutiny by the secular high priests in the New York Review of Books?
We have no odds yet from Las Vegas, but the media coverage of the coming of the cardinals is the campaign created before our eyes.
I rest my case for now, with an obligatory bow to John Allen for well-textured profiles in his series on cardinals in National Catholic Reporter.
As Yogi Berra so aptly said, it’s not over till it’s over.