Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ratzi Standard Time = More Delays

With B16 keenly aware that "he's got to be careful with what he says" on economics given the volatile backdrop of the global financial crisis, the market-meltdown might be the cause behind yet another postponement of the pontiff's long-awaited social encyclical.

The latest round of delay buzz was first reported last week by the Italian vaticanista Paolo Rodari, who wrote on his blog that a repeat of last year's situation -- when the social text was expected, and a bolt-from-the-blue on hope emerged instead -- was becoming an increasingly-likely scenario, with the odds this time around tipping an encyclical on faith to complete the "Ratzingerian triptych on the theological virtues" begun with 2006's Deus Caritas Est.

Another possibility in the mix, the Riformista scribe says, could be a text on the interpretation of Scripture -- the brainchild of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, the top spokesman of this month's Synod on the Word, which wraps up Sunday.

Driven above all to complete the second book of his chronicle of Jesus of Nazareth -- obliquely indicating his "deepest intention" at a February audience on St Augustine -- the "simple" work that the then-CDF prefect had marked out as his retirement project continues to trump not just the "great highbrow works of theology" on his plate as Pope, but even some of the other matters awaiting his attention in the pipeline.

It's no secret that Joseph Ratzinger loves writing -- just this morning, a Vatican event was held to mark the release of Volume 1 of his Complete Works... with 15 more parts to follow over the next eight years. And in that light, quite possibly to give said prolific stirrings a bit more breathing room, another set of rumblings recently given voice in the Italian press float that a decree awaits Benedict's signature to raise the mandatory retirement age for bishops by three years, to 78.

By B16's design, the topic of extending the episcopal mandate last came up over his discussions with the College of Cardinals at his pontificate's first consistory in March 2006. But even so, the first change on the papal senate's wish list -- lifetime conclave privileges, as opposed to the current ineligibility after age 80 -- doesn't stand an equal chance of overturn; among other complications, given the college's current complement of 192 members all told (80 more than participated in the 2005 conclave), the scene in the Sistine Chapel would be downright chaos.

On two other notes, the Pope's formally-announced travel calendar remains without a single overseas trip on-deck, but that should soon change. As foreign visits have come to be confirmed roughly five months in advance and B16's custom is to take his first major road-tour during the Easter season, the destination for Apostolic Journey #11 will likely surface before year's end.

And, lastly, said to be working its way through the home-stretch of the appointment process is a "significant" number of moves for the United States, majors included. Provided the timetable holds, the nods can seemingly be expected to roll out in spurts following the elections and the subsequent week's USCCB Plenary in Baltimore.

At its top layers, the US Docket currently numbers eight dioceses lacking an ordinary, with another 11 led by (arch)bishops serving past 75 and awaiting successors.

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano