For what may be the first time ever, a Roman Catholic leader has written an “insider” account of a papal conclave. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has authored an unprecedented peek at the Vatican gathering this year that resulted in the selection of Pope Francis.
Spoiler alert: Cardinal Dolan does not violate the oath of secrecy taken by those who enter the conclave. There are no revelations about balloting, no comments concerning candidates.
But that doesn’t mean “Praying in Rome: Reflections on the Conclave and Electing Pope Francis,” a $1.99 e-book (imagecatholicbooks.com), isn’t without some insider dope. During the meetings held before the doors of the Sistine Chapel were shut, Cardinal Dolan recalls a foreshadowing encounter: “[W]hen I was getting settled in my place, a gentleman came around me and announced, confidently but softly, ‘My name is Jorge Bergoglio. I’m from Buenos Aires. And you are Timothy Dolan from New York, and I wanted to meet you.’”
Not a bad way to meet the next pontiff, I suppose.
This 45-page e-book is, indeed, reflective, and Cardinal Dolan filled its pages with a range of insights. Given that this was his first conclave, the archbishop was concerned about finding certain supplies if things take longer than expected: “While my brother cardinals weren’t in a rush” to begin the conclave, he writes, “I was worried I’d run out of socks and peanut butter!” (It turned out, Cardinal Dolan told this writer in April, that peanut butter was sent to him, and he received enough socks to donate many pairs to a local charity.)
Cardinal Dolan also dispels the notion that Catholic leaders could bend and twist doctrine to conform to the times: “My days in Rome were also about finding the most effective way of presenting timeless beliefs to the world. We were not, in any way, a board of governors assembled to discuss changes to Church teaching.”
I could go on and on quoting from this book, but there are copyright laws to consider. Suffice it to say that this reader highlighted many sentences and passages, and that “Praying in Rome” is a book well worth reading on several levels.
As mentioned, this may well be the first insider’s account of a conclave published by a participant, certainly the first in the modern era, and definitely the first e-book from a participant. Cardinal Dolan offers his view of the Catholic Church overall, and of the process, in a way that, as noted, preserves the secrecy of the proceedings while offering a fair amount of perspective nonetheless. For those inside — and outside — the Roman Catholic faith, “Praying in Rome” is an instructive, insightful read.
Salvation Army Council Set
On another faith front, a similar — though not identical — session to the conclave that elected Pope Francis will convene outside of London on July 29. There, 117 international leaders of The Salvation Army, the evangelical Christian church and global charity, will meet as a “High Council” to select that movement’s next leader, called the general following their military nomenclature.
The proceedings won’t be as secret as those that took place at the Vatican — the opening and the announcement of the new general are expected to be streamed on the Internet — and if the 2011 event is any precedent, there will be periodic bulletins of who has been nominated and how those candidacies are progressing.
The Salvation Army vacancy came about on June 13 when Gen. Linda Bond, a Canadian who had served the organization for 44 years, suddenly announced she was “relinquishing” her post and retiring.
One of the nice things the organization is doing is devoting a website to the pending event: salvationarmy.org/ihq/highcouncil2013, as well as issuing updates via Twitter (@HighCouncil2013) and Facebook (facebook.com/HighCouncil2013). Those interested will get a small window into the process, all from the comfort of their computers or tablets.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.