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Readers say what they want from a new pope

Findings from UCAN survey released

  • Asia Desk, Bangkok
  • Asia
  • March 4, 2013
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Sex abuse and its handling by Church authorities is the top priority for the next pope, according to a recent readership survey conducted by ucanews.com.

The survey – conducted from February 18-28 – attracted 2,300 responses, with the majority (72 percent) from Asia. More than three quarters identified sexual abuse and how Church authorities respond to it as the most important challenge facing the Church and the new pope.

A close second was conflict in the Church in Europe and the United States, which 66 percent of respondents identified as either the highest or second highest priority for the new papal administration.

Other issues of concern included unifying the Church, a more practical ecumenical approach and a more pastoral response to divorcees.

There was no clear consensus in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, with the largest group of respondents expressing “shock”, while others described their response as “sad,” “sorry,” and “puzzled."

Several respondents expressed admiration for the courage it took for Pope Benedict to step down.

Perhaps most significant were responses on whether or not Benedict’s resignation will establish a precedent. 

Almost two-thirds of respondents said that future popes' tenures should be limited, either for a fixed term (23 percent) or up to a retirement age of 75 years old (42 percent). The remainder thought it should be a lifetime commitment.

More than 58 percent of respondents identified unity in the Church as the Vatican’s top priority, while the offering of a more pastoral approach to divorcees and the empowerment of bishops’ conferences were both named as high priorities.

There were criticisms that, in the last 30 years, the Vatican has not addressed the care of the divorced and remarried, despite many requests from bishops’ conferences to do so.

It was also mentioned that, during the same period, some national and regional bishops’ conferences have claimed that the Vatican has downplayed their influence and significance. 

The survey also gave strong indications of Asia’s growing interest in having greater influence in the Vatican in proportion to its dynamic growth in recent years. 

Nearly 79 percent of respondents said the next pope should come from outside Europe, with 45 percent saying the next pope should come from an Asian country.

The prospects of an Asian pope seem unlikely, with only nine of the voting cardinals from Asia among the 115 that will vote at the conclave – five from India and one each from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. A tenth, from Indonesia, has announced that he will not attend the conclave.

In contrast, 28 of the voting cardinals come from Italy alone.

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