Many people are trying their hand at prophecy, making guesses at who will be elected the next pope. Study the history and the problem becomes a lot easier to solve.
Pope Pius XI was elected in 1922, a scant year before Hitler forced the Nazi movement into the public spotlight through his failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The Nazi movement was an on-again, off-again threat during the 1920’s, marginalized almost to insignificance by 1929. Unfortunately, the world-wide economic depression of the early 1930’s brought them roaring back from the grave. Though the Nazis never received an electoral majority, electoral politics and the miscalculation of several prominent political figures in Germany convinced German President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler to the office of chancellor.
Thus, upon Pius XI’s death in 1939 the world was faced with a crisis of evil in the heart of Europe. The cardinals responded by electing to the papacy a man who had been the papal nuncio in Germany for over a decade (1917-1929). He knew Germany and the German people intimately; he knew perfectly well that the new-pagan Nazi regime was thoroughly evil. Of the forty-four speeches the papal nuncio had made on German soil, forty of them attacked the Nazis. In March, 1939, this papal nuncio became Pope Pius XII.
Pius XII was the only man in Europe willing to stand up to Hitler. Germany’s Nazi government immediately repudiated his election. The New York Times declared him the “lone voice” in Europe objecting to Nazism. Reinhard Heydrich of the Reich Central Security Office warned, “In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order...the Pope does not refer to the National Socialists in Germany by name, but his [1942 Christmas] speech is one long attack on everything we stand for.”
Pius XII helped coordinate the communications of the group that attempted to assassinate Hitler. Hitler became so frustrated at his inability to silence this thorn in his side that the Nazis drew up secret plans to kidnap him. Pius' efforts saved more Jews than all other European efforts combined. The anti-Semites who assert differently implicitly call the Jews who lived through the war liars, for these same Jews uniformly praised Pius XII for his uniquely heroic efforts. The Nazi threat was ground into dust during his reign and due in no small part to his witness.
However, with Nazism crushed, a different menace arose. Communism grew through the post-war years to reach a crisis point during the late 1970’s, as Jimmy Carter’s ineffectual presidency exacerbated problems throughout the world. In 1979, as the crisis reached its height, the cardinals elected to the papacy a man who had lived through both Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, a man who understood the communists intimately and had fought them to a stand-still time and again in his native Poland.
Pope John Paul II was virtually the only man in Europe willing to stand up to the Communists. Though he never attacked a specific Communist regime by name, he secretly assisted Poland’s Solidarity movement and diplomatically outflanked every move the totalitarians made. He frustrated the communist hierarchy to such an extent that the famous assassination attempt on his life is still suspected by many to have been the result of a Communist-inspired contract on his life. Today, the world praises him for his uniquely heroic efforts against the totalitarians. The Communist threat was ground into dust during his reign and due in no small part to his witness.
Today, there are crises developing on many fronts. Biotechnology issues, such as cloning, IVF, stem cell research and euthanasia rock through the headlines, threatening the sanctity of human life. On the political front, violent members of the Muslim community seriously threaten world peace. On the religious front, new strains of paganism run throughout Europe while the Orthodox communities crack and fall away from ancient Christian practice under the assault of secular sensibilities.
So, who will be Pope? It will be the man ready to deal with the next real crisis. Perhaps a man who knows the ways of medical science intimately, or who is thoroughly acquainted with the Muslim community. A man who intimately understands the defects of pagan philosophy or who is capable of permanently re-uniting the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. Study the background of the next Pope, and you will discover what the real world crisis is. Then wait and watch. You will see the ones who fomented the crisis crushed under the heel of the Vicar of Christ.