Wednesday, November 29, 2023


The next pope is out there. Who will the College of Cardinals elect, a clone of Pope Francis? That seems plausible since Pope Francis has chosen cardinals that do not challenge his theology. But the God of surprises might surprise Pope Francis in retirement or death, whichever comes first. 

Will the cardinals pick a clone of Pope Benedict? I doubt it, but again, who knows in today’s climate of the Church?

More than likely it will be a mix of Francis and Benedict with a bit of JPII thrown in along with JPI and Paul VI and John XXIII and all other popes. 

The Catholic Herald wrote an article back in July of 2022 on the Hungarian option. My vote goes to him:

This is from the Catholic Herald:

Will it be a Hungarian Pope?

Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő – Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest – may be emerging as a front-runner to succeed Pope Francis. The canon law expert is fast becoming a contender to succeed the Holy Father as rumours mount about the latter’s health, even with a potential candidate from Asia emerging as a frontrunner as well. Filipino Cardinal Tagle would certainly align with the more liberal position taken by the current Pope. His appointment would also point to the changing demographics of the Church. (Tagle fell out of favor with Pope Francis after this article was written and he was removed from a Vatican Dicastery by the pope.) A Hungarian Pope however would be enormously significant given the cultural Iron Curtain dividing a de-Christianised western Europe from a re-Christianising east.

As John Gizzi – Chief Political Correspondent for Newsmax – recently pointed out, “talk of Erdő as a future Pope is nothing new.” Indeed, Cardinal Erdő was being talked about as early as 2013. But, as Gizzi wrote, one Vatican insider told Newsmax the current Pope “is not going to be around for long”, adding that “at the most, he will be there until December.” Meanwhile the source told Newsmax to closely “watch Cardinal Erdő … he is the one who [the College of Cardinals, who will elect the next Pope] are beginning to talk about.” (Of course, this prediction was wrong—Pope Francis can be tenacious and like the energizer bunny!)

So, who exactly is Cardinal Erdő?

Cardinal Erdő is considered a traditionalist who respects the celebration of the Latin Mass. But Cardinal Erdő is also respected by liberals like the Holy Father, suggesting he could be a unifying force within the Church. Pope Francis has already appointed Cardinal Erdő as the “relator general” of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Hungarian cardinal has also been vocal in his support for outreach to Orthodox Christianswhich may be significant given the huge numbers of Ukrainians currently in Hungary. (This would be superb!)

But what Cardinal Erdő has said is perhaps less important than what his appointment would represent. Pope St. John Paul II was considered instrumental in the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe. The Polish Pope’s election helped spark the peaceful end of communism in his native country, with his visit in 1979 being a major turning point. While it would be wrong to characterise Cardinal Erdő as aligned directly with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a man at the forefront of the culture clash within the EU, his past statements suggest some sympathies, while he is the leading Catholic in a country which is now 80 per cent Christian and very much on the conservative nationalist side of the great European cultural divide.

Orbán – himself a Calvinist, although his wife and children are Catholic – would see a Hungarian Pope as a hugely significant moment, especially as he continues to characterise Hungary and Poland as leaders of central and eastern Europe as well as defenders of Western Christendom. Back in 2015, during the height of the European migrant crisis, Cardinal Erdő struck a tone which would seem to align with Orbánite politics. At that time – when Pope Francis was calling on Catholics to take in refugees – the Cardinal said taking in refugees would amount to human trafficking. Meanwhile, Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, the Church’s most senior official in southern Hungary, was quoted as saying Pope Francis “doesn’t know the situation” and that Hungary was under “invasion.” 

In conservative Hungary, Catholics officials are known to ally strongly with Orbán, who has warned repeatedly about the presence of Muslims in Europe, arguing that “Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.” This, in a country where church bells toll every day at noon to commemorate a 15th Century battle in which Hungary expelled Muslim Turks. Despite Cardinal Erdő’s position in 2015 however, the following year he expressed concern about tendencies to turn religions against one another. Then in an interview with Válasz On Line in 2019 – when asked directly about Islam and immigration – Cardinal Erdő asked rhetorically: “Can a country, a continent, be called Christian?”, seemingly a direct challenge to Orbánite thinking. The Cardinal added “I wouldn’t emphasise whiteness as a Catholic, though.” 

The extent to which Cardinal Erdő aligns with Orbán is difficult to say. What is clear, however, is that a Hungarian Pope would be enormously symbolic in central and eastern Europe, given the cultural cleavage within the EU. Last year alone a law which bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change went into effect in Hungary. In conservative and Catholic Poland, there are also “zones” apparently free of LGBT “ideology”. The conservative drift in these countries – whether in relation to gay rights or immigration – has highlighted the ideological division within Europe as a whole. Whether Cardinal Erdő likes it or not, should he be appointed to lead the Catholic Church one can imagine central and eastern Europe energised in its ongoing culture war with the west.


rcg said...

Each person is different, but my impression of Hungarians as a group is that they are fairly orthodox and you don’t mess with them.

Tom Makin said...

"If God willing and the creek don't rise" is all I will say!!