Who will be the next Pope?
We don't know, do we? The 117 (actually 115, because two are ill and cannot come to the Conclave) Cardinal-electors are highly intelligent individuals, leaders responsible for major archdioceses around the world or major administrative departments of the Church. They all have duties of oversight that are extensive and weighty. They have a view that is at once "from the inside" and global, a view that the media don't and can't begin to share and report. This collective view is of the work of the whole Church, not just that in the United States or Europe, where secularizing decay is rife in society and in parts of the Christian community.
What happened 27 years ago, in October of 1978, may be our best precedent. The electors at that Conclave looked to Poland, a church under oppression, but a community that was well-managed, influential and growing. They chose the very brightest member of a heroic and determined national hierarchy. Are there regions, within Europe or outside of it, where such a resurgent church is replicated and ready to assume a place in history? This, I believe, is one of the questions the Cardinals will answer next week.
I think about 99 per cent of everything we hear about the Conclave is gossip.