The University of Notre Dame plans to award an honorary doctorate to Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican official whos included on many short lists of contenders to become the next pope, during its commencement ceremony on May 15.
Arinze, a Nigerian native who most recently has led the Vaticans initiatives on worship, sacraments and liturgy, agreed to accept the doctorate in October, Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said today.
If Arinze, 72, emerges as the next pope during the conclave that begins Monday, it likely would prevent him from traveling to South Bend, Ind., next month to accept the honor.
If Cardinal Arinze is elected the next pope, we do not expect him here. We think hell have another scheduling conflict,Storin said.
Notre Dame first invited Arinze to receive an honorary degree last year, but the cardinal could not accept because of a scheduling conflict.
We then invited him to come for this year and he sent us his acceptance, written in his own hand, in October,Storin said.
Notre Dame already has bestowed an honorary degree on one future pope. In 1960, it honored Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who took the name Paul VI when he became the pontiff three years later.
Notre Dame generally does not disclose citations for honorary degrees before they are awarded, but Storin said it was recognizing Arinze for his dedication to interfaith dialogue, particularly with Muslims. Arinze headed the Pontifical Council for Inter Religious Dialogue until October 2002.
At that time, John Paul II named Arinze prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which reviews liturgical texts.
Arinze has visited Indiana at least once. In November 1999, he preached on the Feast of All Saints at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, telling 1,500 worshippers that all are called to be holy.
It is not true that holiness is only expected of the clergy and others just sneak into heaven. No, no, no, its not good theology,he said, drawing laughter.
One other cardinal widely considered among the favorites to become the next pope also has received an honorary degree from Notre Dame. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, received one in 2003, two years after his elevation to the College of Cardinals.
Also honored have been several other cardinals who will vote on the next pope during the conclave: Americans Adam Maida of Detroit (in 1997), William Henry Keeler of Baltimore (1998) Edmund Casimir Szoka of the Vatican (1999), Italian Agostino Cacciavillan (2000) and German Walter Kasper (2002).