As the world awaits the Cardinals in the Vatican to start the conclave and elect the next Pope, Catholics debate on the qualities they wish to be embodied by the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.


Before the Cardinals were ordered not to speak out about the impending election of Benedict XVI’s (who resigned last February 28 for health reasons) successor, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan told CNN’s Christian Amanpour what he thinks should be the characteristics of the next pontiff.


Archbishop Dolan said the next Pope should be “a man who reminds you of Jesus. Now every Christian is supposed to do that, OK, but in a particularly radiant and personal way, the pope is supposed to remind us of Jesus. We call him the vicar of Christ.”


Cardinal Dolan also said Roman Catholics “need somebody savvy about the church universal, who kind of is aware and conscious of the diverse needs of the Catholic family.”


He added that the next Pope will also have to be somebody who is bilingual/multilingual (knows English, Italian and preferably some other languages). He also ought to have “some governing capacity, some managerial skills.”


When asked if the next Pope should be a conservative traditionalist or a progressive leader, Cardinal Dolan answered: “For a pope, the mission statement is to conserve, in the best sense of the word. His job description is to conserve, to preserve the patrimony of the church, I mean the spiritual patrimony of the church, the timeless teaching as passed on to us from Jesus to his apostles through 2,000 years of the church.”


“Now, that doesn’t mean that he might not change the way it’s presented. But to tamper with the immutable teachings of the church, he wouldn’t see that as his role. He would see it as his sacred responsibility to preserve that,” Cardinal Dolan explained.


It is important to note that Cardinal Dolan will be among those who will vote for the next Pope. He is also rumored to be in the short list of Cardinals being considered to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.


But it seems a big majority of Americans interviewed in the latest New York Times-CBS poll do not agree with Cardinal Dolan.


Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they would prefer the next Pope to be “someone younger, with new ideas.” Fifty four percent preferred someone who can “lead the church in a new direction and make its teachings more liberal.”


Nineteen percent of those surveyed said they hope the next leader of the Catholic Church will continue Pope Benedict’s conservative teachings. Only 18 percent want the next Pope to be more conservative than his predecessor.


A majority of American Catholics also think the Catholic Church is out of touch with the needs of Catholics today.


Fil-Ams are also split on the issue. Not surprisingly, it seems to be a generational divide.


Balitang America aired a report of San Francisco Senior Correspondent Henni Espinosa on her interviews with kababayans on this issue.


Younger generation Fil-Ams tend to want the next Pope to be more liberal, and to respond to the needs and challenges of modern times.


Interviewee Jerry Alcones’ views echoed the opinion of a big majority of American Catholics polled by the New York Times-CBS study, saying the next Pope should allow priests to get married; should ordain women to be priests; should support the use of artificial birth control methods.


Alcones even said the next pope should allow same-sex couples to marry, arguing that all men are created equal.


Like many Catholics of his generation, Alcones said the next Pope should listen to the voice of the youth. “We are the new generation of this Church. We can guide him on what needs to be done,” Alcones told Balitang America.


But more of our older kababayans want the next Pope to uphold Catholic values and traditions.


Kababayan Eden Bonin told Balitang America that while she believes the next Pope should be younger and should reach out to the younger generation, he should not compromise on traditional Catholic beliefs.


Many older Fil-Ams hope the next Pope would say NO to artificial birth control methods, NO to married men as priests and NO to same-sex marriage.


In Balitang America’s daily poll Isyu Ngayon, an overwhelming number of our viewers who voted -- 94 percent --say the next pope shouldn’t allow women to be ordained as priests.


Seventy percent of our viewers say the next pope should not allow the Catholic Church’s oath of celibacy for the clergy be overturned. They contended that priests should not marry because this will be against Catholic tradition.


Like New York Archbishop Dolan, Fil-Am priest Monsignor Flor Arcamo of the San Francisco Archdiocese agrees that Roman Catholic Church values should not be compromised.


But Fr. Arcamo expressed what most Fil-Ams believe, beyond the generational divide.


Fr. Arcamo said the next pope’s first priority should be cleaning up the Roman Catholic Church’s image.


“The sex abuse scandals have really rocked the Church and these have to be adressed,” Fr. Arcamo said.


These scandals and turmoil in the in the Catholic Church could have played a big part in the sentiments of many Catholics regarding the papacy, and Roman Catholic as an organized religion.


The New York Times-CBS poll suggested “that the papacy no longer occupies the exalted position it once did. Catholics said they would be more likely to follow their conscience on ‘difficult moral questions’ than to follow the teachings of the pope.”



Blog GelGel Santos Relos is the anchor of ABS-CBN TFC’s “Balitang America”. This article originally appeared in the Asian Journal where she also writes op-ed pieces. Visit Gel's blogsite to read more Fil-AM Perspectives. Follow her on Twitter @GelSantosRelos.