Have you thought about the next papal election yet?

You and I may not have, but Anura Gurugé has. He’s even set up two websites on the papacy — one on papal elections — Papam – All About Papal Elections — and another called Popes and the Papcy with his latest list of the next papabili.

This all seems quite early. Pope Benedict seems in good shape despite his years. It’s never too early to speculate, though. Gurugé’s top three for the next head of the Roman Catholic Church are Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Italy’s Ennio Antonelli, President of the Council for the Family (Roman Curia) and Canadian Marc Ouellet of  Quebec.

After Gurugé flagged his website to me, I went to the main  “let’s get in on the speculation early” site, that of the Dublin bookmaker Paddy Power. They don’t agree — their top three are Venice’s Cardinal Angelo Scola, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. (Photo: Cardinals file into Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, 18 April 2005/Osservatore Romano)

From Venice, more Catholic support for Muslim dialogue appeal

Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of VeniceThe Vatican is taking its time to study the dialogue appeal from 138 Muslim scholars before giving an official reply, but the Catholic Church’s Islam and inter-faith experts seem to be lining up to comment on it. After Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. yesterday, Cardinal Angelo Scola has given his positive analysis of it today. Since taking his post in 2002 as Patriarch of Venice, a city that has had extensive trading links to the East for centuries, the former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome has started up the Studium Generale Marcianum institute to study Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim culture. He also launched a unique biannual review named Oasis to foster Christian-Muslim understanding. It publishes reports and reviews in four separate bilingual editions — Italian and Arabic, French and Arabic, English and Arabic and English and Urdu.

In a front-page interview with the Milan daily Il Foglio (here in Italian), Scola said the call for dialogue took a realistic approach and the number and prominence of its signatories were impressive. Scola said he was also impressed “by the fact, probably without precedent, that the quotes concerning Jesus Christ were taken from the Gospels and not from the Koran. … It is a very encouraging signal, since it demonstrates that good will and dialogue can overcome prejudices. It is a spiritual reflection on the love of God.”

“The document, set in the perspective of the double love of God and neighbour, highlights a part of Muslim tradition that has been partially overshadowed by the growth of fundamentalism,” he said. “The Muslim leaders identify themselves with those ‘others’ of whom Jesus said: ‘those who are not against us are with us’.” Between the lines, he said, could also be read a condemnation of terrorism.