"You can reach the whole world by television," Belgian CARDINAL GODFRIED DANNEELS told Time shortly before the death of the Pope. "You can be very close to everyone, individually." That observation is notable less for its shopworn truth than for the fact that Danneels, a blunt-spoken former liturgy professor on some short lists to be the next Pope, has essentially conceded the degree to which John Paul II's personal magnetism and its electronic deployment have made photo-ready charisma a nearly essential element of the papal job description.
"John Paul was lucky because the bar was set very low," says David Gibson, author of The Coming Catholic Church. "John XXIII had charisma, but he didn't travel. Paul VI traveled, but he didn't speak other languages very well. John Paul II ran the table." To follow that act, many observers agree, his successor will need to speak several languages, have a ready smile (or at least a telegenic frown) and, as Gibson puts it, be able "to make news by virtue of who he is" as much as by what he has done.
Two Cardinals who are often tagged with the word charismatic are Honduras' OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA and Austria's CHRISTOPH SCHONBORN. The first is a polymath with a c.v. that includes eight languages, debt-relief work with the rock star Bono, some music playing of his own and what an observer calls an "effervescence." The second possesses a different charm (see box). The cosmopolitan scion of generations of European and Catholic nobility, he has what John Allen, author of Conclave, called a "princely bearing," which has kept him in good stead among world leaders. Never before have musical chops and impressive posture--as opposed to the men's formidable professional accomplishments--been quite so important to their papal chances as they may be now.
Yet there are signs of what might be called a movement against the tyranny of charisma. "The people are voicing their opinion for another figure who can hold the spotlight like Karol Wojtyla," says Vittorio Messori, a church historian who helped focus that spotlight by editing the late Pontiff's best seller Crossing the Threshold of Hope. "But what the church needs now is structure, governance and patient service." That sentiment is echoed by a surprisingly wide cross section of clerics who think that the former Pope's flair for the symbolic gesture sometimes came at the expense of administrative housecleaning. Even JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER, John Paul's theological enforcer as well as a possible Pope, has grouched about a certain "untidiness."
Says a Vatican official, addressing an issue that is expected to get relatively little play at the conclave: "The sex-abuse crisis showed that we need a manager. There wasn't enough action from Rome because the Pope was too much of a delegator. It leaves you ill equipped to respond to crises, since no one wants to pass bad news up. There's a need to find someone who will do the nitty-gritty and handle the balance sheet--and not just the financial balance sheet."
Could a relatively colorless manager like GIOVANNI CARDINAL BATTISTA RE, head of the Congregation of Bishops, ride such a sentiment to St. Peter's chair? Probably not. More likely, the electors will try to find a John Paul--like inner glow combined with a head for institutional detail. Says Chicago's FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE: "Maybe you have to do both."