Skip to main content

What the next pope will face

By Theodore Edgar McCarrick, Special to CNN
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
In Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is known for housing the papal conclave, in which the College of Cardinals gathers <a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/pope/index.html'>to elect the next pope</a>. Its ceiling is one of the most recognized pieces of art in the world. In Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is known for housing the papal conclave, in which the College of Cardinals gathers to elect the next pope. Its ceiling is one of the most recognized pieces of art in the world.
HIDE CAPTION
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cardinal McCarrick: The world is waiting on the next pope in more ways than one
  • McCarrick: The pope isn't just a spiritual leader, he is also a moral leader on a range of issues
  • He says global poverty, malnutrition, threats to religious freedom, are important issues to tackle
  • McCarrick: The starting point of picking the next pope must be the needs of the people

Editor's note: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C. He participated in the 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI. Watch Cardinal McCarrick on The Situation Room today at 6 p.m. ET.

(CNN) -- The world is waiting on the next pope in more ways than one.

Everyone, including the College of Cardinals, is wondering who the next Bishop of Rome and leader of the world's billion Catholics will be. But the world is waiting in another, more urgent sense, because the pope isn't just a spiritual leader to Catholics. His work has a global dimension.

As has been true in the past, the next pope will have to provide a moral voice to a range of challenges.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

An estimated 1.7 billion people live without adequate health care or decent living conditions and more than 1.3 billion live below the measure of extreme poverty. Some 870 million people are chronically malnourished. Jesus identified himself with the poor and the marginalized and all Christians have a responsibility to them. But the pope, as Servant of the Servants of God and Vicar of Christ on Earth, bears a special burden.

Currently 75% of the world's population faces growing threats to religious freedom, according to a 2012 report from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life.

CNN Explains: Papal succession

The U.S. Confrence of Catholic Bishops says in a recent report that while many religious groups face persecution, Christians are harassed in 111 out of 193 countries. An estimated 150,000 Christians die each year because of their faith. Many others have had to leave their countries because of war, oppression or rapid political change. In Bethlehem, the Christian population has dropped from 80% to 28%.

Opinion: What Africans want from next pope

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The safety of the entire world is a concern with the rise of fundamentalist Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring and the possible nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

The next pope will also face a changing church, which, while ever ancient, is ever new.

Two thirds of the world's Catholics live in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The church is growing the fastest in Africa and Latin America. In the United States, 54% of Catholics born since 1982 are Hispanic. Also, an unprecedented 16% of the U.S. population claims no religious affiliation, a challenge to the faith that calls for urgent renewal.

This month in Rome, in view of all these many challenges and heartbreaks, the cardinals have the solemn responsibility to give the world a good shepherd who can guide them to the source of true hope and freedom, which is found in Jesus Christ.

This is why viewing the upcoming conclave as a popularity contest is to have everything backward. As with picking a pastor or a diocesan bishop, the starting point must be the needs of the people. In the case of the pope, that happens to be the entire world.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Theodore Edgar McCarrick.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1928 GMT (0328 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT