For the world’s one billion Catholics and for the non-Catholics who watch, the passing of Pope John Paul 11 will be an historic moment. Few Popes have been more enmeshed in the politics of their time or have had as much impact both on the Church and on the wider world. But as the Church mourns Karol Wojtyla, the first Polish Pope, the Catholic Church must elect the first Pope of the 21st century. At openDemocracy, we believe the issue of democracy is one of the most important that the Church must confront as it enters the third millennium. Who owns the Church, who should govern it, how should they be chosen and by whom? Within the Church itself there is a recognition that democracy and governance are the new battleground. But how far can democracy go in an institution that still does not admit women to power? Should the Pope be elected by all the faithful instead of by the Cardinals? Or should the Vatican itself be cut down to size? And if the Catholic Church must grapple with this challenge, what about the world’s other faiths? As the Cardinals enter their conclave in Rome to choose the next Pope we shall be debating these fundamental issues on openDemocracy.net. We hope you will join us.
1 April 2005