In Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, published just before Pope Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement of his resignation, I suggest seven such qualities.
A profound and transparent faith. The pope must be so convinced of the Catholic symphony of truth, and so transparent to it in his own life, that he readily invites others into friendship with Jesus Christ, simply by being who and what he is. The preaching, catechetics, and teaching are important, but they come “after” transparency to Christ and his love.
Natural resilience amplified by grace. The pope must be able to draw from the wellspring of his prayer an abundance of energy, patience, endurance, and compassion. The pope knows the wickedness and evil sins of the world in macrocosm and the sorrows of individual men and women in microcosm. The grace of strength needed to bear that burden of knowledge without being crushed by it must build on a natural physical and psychological hardiness and resilience.
Pastoral experience. John Paul II’s papacy was previewed by his work as archbishop of Cracow and his successful ministry there. That model makes sense for future popes, who must have demonstrated evangelically effective pastoral leadership and a capacity to meet the challenges of aggressive secularism, which did not end when the Berlin Wall came down.
Good judgment in people. A holy, brilliant, humanly decent pope will find his ministry impeded if he does not have shrewd judgment in choosing men for high Church office, both as local bishops and as leaders in the Church’s central administrative machinery in Rome.
Openness and curiosity. One of the keys to the success of John Paul II’s papacy was his openness to a range of inputs from outside conventional ecclesiastical channels. A twenty-first-century pope must look to a wide range of information to inform his own evangelical ministry.
Courage. A timid man who sees dilemmas but not ways to address them is ill-qualified for the papacy. So is a man easily rattled by failure. Doing what is hard and absorbing the criticism for doing it is part of the essential responsibility of the pope.
Languages. In a multilingual Church, a multilingual pope is helpful.