The Cardinals of the Roman Church possess the prerogative of electing the successor of St. Peter because: they “have” parish churches in the Roman metropolis. They are “Cardinals” precisely because the Pope has made them honorary rectors of parishes in Rome. The clergy of Rome elects their bishop = the Cardinals elect the Pope.
For me, there is only one really reliable system for predicting which of the papabile will emerge on the white-smoke-filled loggia when the conclave concludes:
Have I prayed in their Roman parish?* And did I find any artwork by Bernini there?
1. Marc Card. Ouellet has a beautiful church just a couple hundred yards from St. Peter’s Basilica. Carmelite parish. Very prayerful little place. But no Bernini. Ergo: Ouellet will not be the pope.
2. Cardinal Scola of Milan has the fabulous Church of the Dodeci Apostoli. Relic of St. James in the confessio. Absolutely gorgeous place. Could spend the rest of my life praying there.
But: Do I remember any Bernini sculptures in the church? Negative. Scola will not be the pope.
3. Current front-runner Odilo Card. Sherer of Brazil has the thoroughly en-marbled, eliptical Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, where the tomb of St. Stanilaus Kostka, SJ, is located.
Have I prayed there? Yes, fervently, at the tomb of the young saint who was briefly my patron (when I was a Jesuit novice).
Bernini? Well…He’s the architect of the whole bleeding building.
Does that count? Not sure…
4. And Card. Ravasi? He has the stunning, classical San Giorgio in Velabro. Located in a very prayerful part of town, at the foot of the Aventine Hill.
Two problems: 1. I have never so much as seen this church. 2. There is nothing that even suggests “Bernini” within a quarter mile of the place.
5. What about Malcolm Card. Ranjith, former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship? As we can see from the above, he is probably the best candidate, so far as parades go. (And for other reasons, too.)
Now, I cannot claim ever to have prayed at St. Lawrence “Inside” the Walls. But I did say a prayer outside the church, because I was out for a walk, and wanted to pray, but the church doors were locked at that moment. (This was back in the year 2000.)
Anyway, I think we could say that the prayer part is covered.
Plus, there’s a chapel by Bernini inside.
Ergo: Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, will be the next Pope.
* Don’t think any of the Cardinal-bishops have a chance, so no need to consider the prayerfulness or Bernini-ness of their little Roman ‘dioceses.’