Reporting Michele Fiore
CHICAGO (CBS) — As Cardinal Francis George prepares to leave for Rome, he has a few things on his mind.
At a ceremony at Holy Name preparing new Catholics to take their sacraments at Easter vigil, Cardinal George asked them to pray for him and the other cardinals. He’s hoping the impending snow storm will not delay his flight, as he’s expected to be in Rome for a final blessing from the pope Wednesday.
Asked whether the cardinals will take age into consideration when selecting a new leader, Cardinal George said, “Certainly we want someone who is vigorous and able to govern for a good number of years. Most of the cardinals are not really young men, most are in their 60s or 70s, and so probably someone in those decades of life.”
On whether there is an ideal age for selecting a pope, Cardinal George responded. “No, they have been elected at all different ages. A pope was elected at 20, John the IX I think, some centuries back, but that is very unusual.
One observer says he’s likely to be a very important part of that process.
John Allen is a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He says Cardinal George’s reputation as a thoughtful, well-traveled Roman Catholic scholar will likely give the Archbishop of Chicago a great deal of influence over who the next Pope will be.
“He’s likely to play the role of kingmaker rather than king,” Allen told Newsradio. “Cardinal George is somebody who, certainly among American cardinals, they would regard him as their intellectual leader.”
But Allen says the Cardinal is highly regarded by cardinals outside the U.S. as well.
“(He’s) probably one of the few members of the college of cardinals who could hold his own with the current Pope, Benedict the 16th, in terms of an intellectual conversation,” he said.
So does the Cardinal have a shot at being Pope? Allen says that at 76, Cardinal George may be outside the age range of candidates the conclave is likely to consider.
The cardinals’ conclave will begin after Benedict’s last day on Thursday, Feb. 28.