Does the Holy Spirit Choose the Pope?


images No.

From what I understand, and I could be wrong, this is not guaranteed. The Cardinal Electors surely pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they discern who to vote for. And the Faithful pray for the Cardinal Electors and for their openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. No doubt the Holy Spirit has a preference for the next Pope but the Church is not guaranteed that this preference will be elected.

The conclave is not infallible. We know this is true because we have had a few evil popes and a few ineffective popes that were most likely NOT the choice of the Holy Spirit. However, no matter what, Jesus promised us that He would be with us until the end of time.

He will give the Pope, no matter who he is, infallibility. Unfortunately this does not mean that upon election to the papacy a man automatically becomes a SAINT by the power of the Holy Spirit but ONLY that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church from allowing the Pope to teach heresy to the whole Church on faith and morals. This is what we mean by INFALLIBILITY. PROTECTION FROM HERESY.

Pray for a holy man to be elected to the papacy again. The Church has had saintly men for popes for a long time now. Pray that the man the Holy Spirit desires is elected.

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13 Responses

  1. I truly liked the way you explained all of this. Good job! God Bless, SR

  2. At a time of change in Rome, the world of Catholic Christianity must remember that the Pope, whoever he might be, is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rome. The Bishop of Rome is also the Patriarch of the Western (Latin) Church. As such he is co-equal to all the other ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. This is the Orthodox viewpoint: the Pope of Rome is first among equals. (The word “pope” is the English word for papa, father, and the patriarch of Alexandria is also called “pope”) Peter the Apostle may have gone to Rome and became its first Bishop, but before that time he established the Church of Antioch and was that cities first Bishop. So, the patriarchate of Antioch also goes back to the Apostle Peter, and the Patriarchs of Antioch are also the successors of Peter, as is the Bishop of Rome.

    The great issue that divides east from west lies mainly with the primacy of Rome. For centuries now the popes of Rome have claimed supremacy over all the churches of the world and over all the ancient and modern patriarchates. This might be acceptable to the Latin Catholics and to all the Eastern Catholics, but this is far from acceptable to the Orthodox and Oriental Christians. Those churches are all self-governing and most are in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople. In each others eyes they are all co-equal. They still accept the Bishop of Rome as first among equals, but Rome does not accept that position. If, in this new pontificate that will shortly come about, the Pope of Rome could go back to the ancient position of Rome as a co-equal Church and a first among equals Bishop and Patriarch, many old divisions and animosities could be assuaged. Many old wounds and broken hearts could be healed. The Church could truly breathe with both lungs, as was the desire of John Paul II.

    Today Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Patriarch Kiril of Moscow, Pope Theodorus of Alexandria and the various other patriarchs are more than willing to work with Rome for the good of all Christianity. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will lead all of these Churches to peace and communion with each other under One roof.

  3. The division between the Eastern and the Western Church was over 1000 years ago. I don’t see how there can be anyone still alive who would actually have “old wounds and broken hearts”. And I wonder if there really would be any way to heal the “many old divisions and animosities”. I don’t really know what happened in depth. I have never studied what caused the split. I know there was a disagreement about Nicean creed regarding the Holy Spirit. And then there was the difference that the Eastern Churches wanted to submit to the king rather than the Bishop of Rome. So there was politics mixed in along with pride on both sides a bit like the Protestant Reformation.

    No doubt it is much more complicated than that. I am very interested in your explanation or point me to a book to read that would present both sides as unbiased as possible….not too long I hope.

    • The year 1054 is considered the year of the great, final and lasting break between the churches of the east and the churches of the west. This was most unfortunate for both sides, as representatives from both east and west were striving to find middle ground to keep the split from happening. But pride and politics got in the way, plus some terrible insulting incidents, like placing a writ of ex-communication on the altar of ‘Agia Sofia in Constantinople during the patriarchs liturgy by a cardinal of Rome. (This is real brotherly love!)

      And yes, there are people alive today in countries like Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia (notice these are all Slavic countries), who have had churches taken from them and given over to the other side, have had priests and bishops removed because they were too catholic or too orthodox. This all goes both ways and I cannot fault only one side or the other. We are all at fault for the unwanted divisions in Christ’s Church, east-west, catholic-orthodox, and protestantism, too. The further divisive happenings of today came about with the fall of the Soviet Union and the freedom attained by the above mentioned countries. This new wound emerged to some degree or another in all the countries that had Orthodox and Eastern Catholic communities living side by side. The Soviet hard line (in an atheistic society!) favoured exclusively the Orthodox Church. The Eastern Catholic Churches were underground churches or churches in the prison camps. Thousands of Eastern Catholic people, clergy and religious were imprisoned and martyred. Many Orthodox were also done away with for speaking out against the government ( just like in Germany during Hitlers time).

      Now, twenty years ago we had the emergence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The country was independent and free from Russia and the Ukrainians wanted a self governing Catholic Church remaining in communion with Rome. Buildings were fought over. Diocese were fought over. Moscow vehemently opposed the creation of a Patriarchate for either Kiev or Lviv. So! The old animosities and wounds still can be picked open. I do not pick sides in this. I am a Melkite Greek Catholic, even though I am a Slav. I love the Orthodox Church as much as I do the Melkite, or Ukrainian Catholic, or Armenian Catholic or Apostolic. And yes, Melkite was the word used for those churches, which at that time, stood with the king and not with the Roman Pope. Today this is totally opposite: the Melkite Church is under the Catholic Patriarch of Antioch who is in communion with Rome.

      Regarding the Nicean Creed: the “filioque” question has been a point of contention for east and west ever since the Latin Church added this word to the creed in the 11th century. This was one of the (if you would) “theological” points that helped the break and hurt the union. Today this is being down played in western Catholic Churches. It has become an “option” when saying the creed during western liturgies. It is not an option in the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom or that of Saint Basil the Great, the two Liturgies used by the Melkite Church. We do not say “and the Son”.

      • Just a little “add-on” to what I have written.

        Christ is easy, because of Christ. Christianity is difficult because of man!

        You asked for books to read on the subject of east-west relations or the lack thereof. I would recommend the books by Kallisto Ware. He is an Englishman, now 79 years old, and he is a Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. Bishop Kallisto is a lecturer at Oxford University and is one of the foremost theologians, east or west, of this day. He has written much and all of his books are good to read.

        Again, I have a great interest in the church, both east and west, and the ancient histories of all of them. I find the travels of the Apostles most interesting and enlightening. Their stories might not be found in “scripture”, but then neither is Genghis Khan. These accounts are recorded in history and the traditions of nations, cultures and societies throughout the old world.

        Personally I would like to see the new pope of Rome chosen from either Africa or Latin America. I would also like to see the precedent set by Benedict by his retirement, to become the norm for all future popes. Lord knows they deserve a break from being chief pastor of the Roman Church.

        As far as the Holy Spirit choosing the person to be pope: maybe yes, maybe not so much. But I felt the workings of the Holy Spirit when Cardinal Roncalli was chosen as John XXIII and also when John Paul I died so suddenly and the pontificate passed on to Poland and Cardinal Wojtila, as John Paul II.

        May we all live in interesting times!!!

      • Thanks Dom. Interesting to hear your take on it.

  4. @ Dominic: Just a short comment basing on your first paragraph alone:

    “The Bishop of Rome is also the Patriarch of the Western (Latin) Church. As such he is co-equal to all the other ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople.”

    Actually, this statement is very misleading. The Pertarchy was an invention of Emperor Justian I in the fourth century. Although Constantinople later claimed to be founded by Apostle Andrew for its preeminence (Well, the reality is that the Twelve traveled throughout the Roman Empire and planted many many churches including those in India), its status was more to do with being the center of the political “New Rome.” The ancient apostolic sees (called the “Petrine Episcopal Sees” were simply Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. BTW, the title of “Patriarch of the West” was invented by the East and was never accepted by Rome. In 2006, it was formally renounced and dropped as being “obsolete and unusable” due to historical and theological reality.

    “(Peter) established the Church of Antioch and was that cities first Bishop. So, the patriarchate of Antioch also goes back to the Apostle Peter, and the Patriarchs of Antioch are also the successors of Peter, as is the Bishop of Rome.”

    I failed to see the relevancy. As stated earlier, I’m quite sure that Peter planted many other churches (incl. Alexandria with his constant companion, Mark). Yes, Peter appointed Evodius who was then succeeded by Ignatius in Antioch. The difference is that Peter finally settled and died (martyrdom) in Rome and appointed Linus, to be succeeded by Cletus, etc. This is a deliberate agenda when speaking in terms like the (other) Patriarchs as being “co-equal” while reducing Peter (and Roman Pontiff, his successor) to merely the “Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rome.”

    A good and easy to read book is “Orthodoxy and Catholicism” by Dave Armstrong.

    • I do not wish to argue religion or religious politics. I didn’t know that the title of Patriarch of the West was dropped by Rome in 2006, but I have now read about this. I find this appalling. To want to put the papacy of Rome in total dominance of all the Patriarchates and Churches of the world is unacceptable to me. I personally will never think of the Pope of Rome in such terms. To me the position of the Bishop of Rome is fulfilled in the “servant of the servants of God”, the Patriarch of the West and First Among Equals. Yes, the papacy of Rome is very important for the whole world, but so is Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Moscow, Yerevan, etc., etc.

      Pope Emeritus Benedict is a humble man, but the arrogance of the Church at Rome is beyond anything taught in the Gospels. There is unity in diversity, which the universal Catholic/Orthodox Church could have, but will never attain when using one-ups-manship on each other. Only with humility, and brotherly love, and common sense, will the several churches find commonality and unity with each other. I would hope this could be achieved before the Founder comes back and finds us all wanting!

  5. @ Dominic: We are disagreeing, not arguing. But why would you find it “appalling” and “unacceptable” (to you)? We must look to Christ for the ultimate basis of Authority in the Church. Where is the scriptural (or even traditional) basis for Pertarchy? Where is the scriptural basis for “First among Equals”? The “patriarchs” have no power greater than that held by other bishops and possess greater honor only because of the history of their sees. The Catholic Church has plenty of archdiosceses which are bigger, just as important, and functioning like an Eastern patriarchate. I don’t hear the Catholic bishops complaining about being over-lorded by the Pope. I think that you are just confused about Authority vs. Dominion. I will suggest the same book (Orthodoxy and Catholicism) to you. It’s healthy to read something from the Catholic perspective for a change. Peace.

    • I used the words appalling and unacceptable to me because I find that Rome denying that it is a Patriarchate, puts Rome above all the other churches, and this is unacceptable to Orthodoxy. It puts a stumbling block to any sort of ecumanism and unity. Yes, Christ is the Founder and the Ultimate Authority, and pentarchy, patriarchy and first-among-equals is not scriptural, but they do not need to be scriptural. The position of cardinals (princes of the church) is not scriptural either, and yet Rome has whole bunches of them. True, cardinals are bishops. So are the patriarchs bishops. There are only three ordained positions in the church: deacon, presbyter (priest), and bishop. This is scriptural. We all know this. But by history, necessity, church and national politics, and tradition the various churches have established the patriarchs, cardinals, monsignori, abbots, etc.

      So for me, even as a Roman Catholic of an Eastern Church, I will always see the Pope of Rome as the First Bishop of Christendom, First-Among-Equals, and the Patriarch of the West.

  6. @ Dominic: As Catholics, we should be weary of the usual anti-Catholic Orthodoxy polemics. Let me try to explain why I disagree …

    Catholicism is Bible Christianity par excellence. We always need to turn to scripture constantly for “teaching” and “reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness.” Not only so, it has to be Jesus Christ who directly empowers the ministries in the Church. The distinction with Rome is that she alone has the Petrine Ministry. Our Lord “built” the Church on Peter and gave him the “keys of the kingdom of Heavens.” It was only to Peter who was told to “tend” and “feed” the flock and to then “confirm his brethren.” The successors of the Apostles (patriarchs and bishops) are only given a similar mandate to “bind and loose” (Matt 18:18). To claim “co-equality” with the Roman Pontiff (I know the Patriarch of Constantinople even attempted to claim to be the “first-among equals” over Rome) is unbiblical and an usurpation of authority in the household of God. While Orthodoxy is a praiseworthy apostolic tradition, it’s spurious and illogical claims to prestige and power is a provincial and sectarian mentality at best.

    We can survey the history of Eastern Orthodoxy to find that it was plagued with internal strives, divisions, susceptibility to heresy and long-running schisms. From antiquity, Rome has always been the standard and guardian of orthodoxy, her singular orthodoxy is acknowledged to be of divine protection because of the promises of Christ. At various times, many of the East’s most revered Church Fathers and Patriarchs (like St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Flavian of Constantinople) even had to seek sanctuary in Rome from their own people. It is notable that since the last schism from the West, the Eastern churches have had been unable to mount any meaningful foreign evangelistic-missionary activities (migration and diaspora do not count) whereas the “Latin” church has continued incessantly to forge forward in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The East was/is simply too steep in the local, nationalistic and cultural religious politicking. In modern reality, the various autocephalous and autonomous Eastern Churches are still constantly squabbling among themselves. Even if it is possible, I seriously doubt that the East’s got what it takes to become a major player, not by way of (in your words) “one-ups-manship” on Rome anyway.

    Now, I don’t think the Church is denying the special honor accorded to the Patriarchs of the East. I’m quite certain that she has already accorded all the proper respect for the authority and collegiality of the bishops, the esteem for the particular Rites, self-governance, spirituality and theological expressions of the East. But ultimately, Rome remains the final arbiter and supreme court of appeal for the universal Church (“Tell it to the church”, Jn 21:15-17). If anything, the wall to break down is the humanly instinct of relativistic indifference, pride, ideological self-preservation … and personal sins. There’s certainly truth in “unity in diversity” but it will be a false ecumenism (slated to failure) if it does not have truth at its core. Like Blessed JPII would say, we need “both lungs” of the Church but there should also be the integrity of faith and order. In God’s Church, we need to cultivate a love for the truth with charity by repudiating unrestrained ambition. For any Eastern Patriarch to claim “co-equality” to the Roman Pontiff is liken to the two sons of Thunder-Zebedee asking to be granted privileged seating in the Kingdom to which Christ would answer: “You do not know what you ask … to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by my Father” (Matt 20:21).

    Let’s pray for another holy and wise Pope to guide the Church in these uncertain and tumultuous times. As Christians, we need to be (re)trained again to witness Christ with an urgency to a world that has grown very cold … and we can do it most effectively by rallying around the Pope (“one fold and one shepherd”, Eph 4:5) who’s our best chance to restore Christian Unity.

    BTW, “Roman Catholicism” is a derogatory term coined by Anglicanism. Not to be confused with the Latin Rite, you are not a “Roman Catholic of an Eastern Church” but rather a Catholic in the fullest sense. It must so wonderful to be a Melkite Greek Catholic. I hope to visit and experience the Byzantine rite for myself one day.

    • I think we will have to agree to dis-agree. Using the term “Roman Catholic is a most common term used worldwide to distinguish the Church of Rome from all other churches that are catholic. My own Saint George Church has a stone above the main entrance on which is engraved “Saint George Syrian R.C. Church” (R.C. as initials only). Our weekly bulletin states: “An Eastern Church in union with the Church of Rome”. I used the noun “Roman” for You and for any non-Catholics who read this to really proclaim and emphasize my pride in being a Catholic, and re-affirming my membership in the Antiochian Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

      I do not see how the title of “Roman Catholic” can be derogatory to anyone, whether it was coined by Anglicans or not. The Church is Catholic. It is located in Rome, Italy. It was located in Rome, Roman Empire. Therefore by geographic location and by habit (tradition), it is called the Roman Catholic Church. There have to be hundreds of thousands of churches in this world whose signs read “St. such-and-such Roman Catholic Church”. I think this is a matter of whatever a local church or parish wishes to call itself. And if they don’t use the noun “Roman” it is still understood to be a Catholic Church of the Roman Church. Now, many orthodox churches use the word catholic in their titles, too. I surely have no problems with this. The Nicene Creed spoken in Orthodox Churches says “One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church”, no different than when it is spoken in Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, or any other Christian denomination that isn’t afraid of the word “catholic”, and considers itself part of the church catholic.

      I still stand by my belief (and really the position of the Antiochian Churches) that the Apostle Peter and then Paul and Barnabas founded and governed the Church at Antioch. Therefore the patriarchs of Antioch are also the rightful successors of the Apostle Peter. From the website of the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church: “the Church of Antioch has maintained a continuous succession in the Apostolic Faith down to the present.”

      I agree, and history bears it out, that through the centuries there has been much strife in the various Orthodox churches, but the Church of Rome has had the same history of scandals, heresies, schisms, suppressions, inquisitions, reformations, intrigue. In east and west these things are caused by men, not God. Yet when you scrape away all these sins and dirt these various sister churches shine like diamonds and pure gold ONLY because of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. These churches will survive inspite of the shortcomings of the men who run them. And yet, there always have been some wonderful saints, both east and west, who have given their lives for the good of their churches, and will continue to do so til the end.

  7. @ Dominic:

    “I agree, and history bears it out, that through the centuries there has been much strife in the various Orthodox churches, but the Church of Rome has had the same history of scandals, heresies, schisms, suppressions, inquisitions, reformations, intrigue. In east and west these things are caused by men, not God.”

    The See of Rome alone has NEVER fallen into heresy.

    “Using the term “Roman Catholic is a most common term used worldwide to distinguish the Church of Rome from all other churches that are catholic”

    You need to study secular and church history. There is the Eastern and then there’s the Western or Latin Church (included Protestantism). The Catholic Church is the Western and the Eastern Churches in communion with the See of Rome. The Orthodox Churches are in schism and separated themselves from the Catholic Church. The Papacy just happens to be in Rome and has nothing to do with the Roman Empire. Roman Catholicism was coined by Anglicanism. Here’s an explanation: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/when-did-the-term-roman-catholic-church-first-come-into-being.

    We can agree to disagree. God bless always.

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