(Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)
An American cardinal has told local media that he believes the pending decision to elect a new pope should not be a hasty one.
Francis Cardinal George of Chicago explained Sunday that time for consideration is of great importance in the decision-making rather than getting a new pope as soon as possible.
"You take the time needed to make a good decision … We will go into conclave when collectively the cardinals decide that we have [had] the conversations necessary to make a good decision," said George, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
"The most important thing is to choose well, and we'll take the time necessary to do that."
Last Monday, Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world and announced that he would be stepping down from his position, thus becoming the first pontiff to do so since Pope Gregory XII in the early 1400s.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," said the pope in a statement released last week.
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff."
Many progressive Catholics hope that the resignation and selection of a new pope will lead to sweeping changes in the Roman Catholic Church.
James Salt of Catholics United wrote a blog entry at The Washington Post arguing for such progressive change once the College of Cardinals make their selection.
"If you look at the recent data from the Pew Center, younger Catholics are abandoning the faith in record numbers. Many of these fallen-away Catholics leave because they don't want to be associated with a church that is more known for its opposition to homosexuality than for the work of peace and justice," wrote Salt.
"I hope the next pope embraces the truth and necessity of social justice not only because it is inspirational, but also because it is vital if our church is to be relevant in the lives of younger Catholics for generations to come."
However Ashley E. McGuire of the Catholic Association argued in another Washington Post blog entry that such change will not occur.
"Even if we entertain the human possibility of a rogue pope, the reality is such a thing is currently sociologically impossible," wrote McGuire.
"About half of the current College of Cardinals (the men who will select the next pope) were appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The other half were put there by Pope Benedict XVI. As you can imagine, they are all orthodox, or faithful to church teaching. On everything."
Informal meetings among the College of Cardinals to determine the next pope are expected to begin on March 1, with the conclave taking place on March 15.