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Cardinal Godfried Danneels: Profile of a Candidate for Pope

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Who is Cardinal Godfried Danneels?:

Godfried Danneels was born on June 4, 1933, in western Flanders (Belgium). He is supported principally by theological progressives and liberals.

Background and Early Life of Godfried Danneels:

Godfried Danneels studied in Rome, became a professor of liturgy at the Catholic University of Louvain, and was named bishop of Antwerp in 1977. He was named archbishop of Brussels in 1979 by John Paul II and became cardinal in 1983. During the 1990s he chaired the Catholic human rights group Pax Christi International.

Current Status of Godfried Danneels:

Godfried Danneels is archbishop of Brussels and enjoys a great deal of popularity among Catholics in Belgium.

Theology of Godfried Danneels:

Godfried Danneels is progressive in matters of doctrine and theology, making him a favorite candidate among liberal Catholics in Europe and North America. He has been outspoken on subjects like homosexuality, AIDS, and the role of women in the Catholic church. Danneels has argued, for example, that HIV-positive people who have sex without using a condom break the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” and this is more important than church ban on contraceptives.

Assessment of Godfried Danneels:

Because of Godfried Danneels’ progressive views, voting for him to become pope would mean voting for major changes in the Catholic church. Danneels supports changes in many different church positions. He would, for example, try to put more women in positions of responsibility, such as running a congregation of the Roman Curia.

It may seem implausible that the cardinals would vote for someone so liberal, but voting for him would also mean voting for greater collegiality and less centralized control in the Vatican — something that has significant support.

If Godfried Danneels becomes pope, he may not remain in office as long as others. He has publicly stated that in the future popes are more likely to resign than die in office because of the way modern medical technology can keep people alive: “We live too long and people cannot continue to carry that responsibility if they turn 90 or 100. It doesn't matter how well they are looked after.”

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