As we now look forward to the start of the conclave and the election of a new pope our minds naturally ponder the attributes of what we think are the important qualities for the new pope to have and what are the most important issues that need to be addressed. First and foremost is that he is able to answer the same question Jesus put to St. Peter, "Do you love me?" and to be able to answer truthfully "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." That he would love God with all his heart, soul, and might. This is of course also the basic requirement that all of us should have. Whenever we see lists of what makes a good bishop we should also see that largely they apply to us, though possible on a smaller scale. Whether we are in charge of a diocese or a family the same basic requirements hold forth.
Jesus goes on to tell St. Peter "Feed my sheep" so obviously this is a major part of the charism of the Pope. I think that one of the greater issues that confronts the life of the Church is catechesis. There has definitely been improvements since the "God is love" Jesus coloring book approach to teaching the faith in the sixties and seventies. Many sheep have spiritually died of starvation from the measly diet from some Catholic schools, theologians, and homilies. Bad enough is the watered down version of the faith, though worse is the injection of theological poisons that not only do not nourished but can hasten spiritual death. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) put out by our late Holy Father was a good start. If only it was implemented into more curriculums. I know one priest in my diocese who runs a Catholic school who has admitted and perhaps even bragged that he has never read the CCC and complained of it being 800 pages long. I guess we can leave out the Bible if the main criterion is page count. This dismissal of the CCC is from what I have read and heard unfortunately common.
I have often heard that heterodoxy is its own cure, that it dies off naturally as evidenced by religious orders who embrace it. This view though encourages a laissez-faire approach to dissent since it almost ignores the importance of the souls of those who embrace it or those they influence. That as long as a heresy is not spreading it is no problem. This is a serious lack of charity to those holding these views. A new Pope though is not going to be able to solve these problems by himself. The Pope gave us Ex Corde Ecclesia to try to reign in the problems of dissent in our Catholic Universities, but since the large majority of bishops have done nothing to implement it this movement for reform has been ineffective. A good shepherd when he sees that one of his sheep is sick will first remove him from the rest of the flock so that the disease might not be communicated to the flock. The shepherd then does what he can to heal the sick sheep and when it is again healthy allows it to return to the rest of the flock. A good shepherd must chase the wolves away from his flock and not invite them in especially to teach. Too many Catholic institutions are willing to give honors to wolves. This is I think a good parallel of what should be done to known dissenters. That out of love we hopefully only temporality remove them from the flock to care for them. This is both charitable to the dissenter, but also to those they might infect. This does not mean a start of a new inquisition or the pope going "all medieval" on some dissenters (though the thought of Fr. McBrien in an Iron Maiden gives me some (disordered) pleasure), but that he make known to the various congregations and their heads that he appoints that dissent should not be ignored. The National Catholic Reporter published a list of people who had been disciplined by the Vatican in the last 26 years and to my mind it is unfortunate that this list is way too short for such a long period of time. Any efforts along this way of course will be labeled by the media as a crackdown or other pejoratives, but getting the disapproval of the media to my mind is positive affirmation that you are on the right track. Pope’s generally have to die first to get the media to say something nice about them.
Another major issue is secularism and Fr. Jim Tucker makes a good case for why he says this it the "Number One Challenge for the Next Pope." This is of course an issue that effects both evangelism and those who already identify themselves as Catholics. We are increasingly able to pretend that we are totally independent of God and our spiritual life is smothered by this radical independence and consuming materialism. Also of course dangerous is this idea of being "spiritual" without any real commitment or any kind of accountability. Fr. Jim though goes more in depth and says it much better and also includes some good suggestions.
Anything that impedes the spread of the Gospel to all corners of the world also needs to be addressed. There is a total lack of religious freedom in many parts of the world. Countries like China with their faux government sponsored churches such as the Patriotic Catholic Church allow you only to believe what they consider to be in their best interests. In Europe actually believing that homosexual acts is gravely disordered will also keep you from being appointed a commissioner such as the case of Rocco Buttiglione. In many Islamic countries not only is the Gospel not allowed to be preached, but conversion can result in your arrest and execution. Christian-Muslim relations will become increasingly strained especially in Africa with expanding Christian churches side by side with heavily islamic cultures. In the U.S. we have freedom of religion unless you are up for appointment as a federal judge and you actually believe that abortion is morally wrong.
From the beginning the Church has always battled the culture of death that surrounds it. The largely Pagan culture that Christianity was birthed in had to be preached about the dignity of human life. Not much has changed it is just that we just kill our newborns in a more antiseptic environment. There are increasing threats to the dignity of human life with abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and the use of embryonic human beings as mere parts for treatments.
I do not envy the great responsibility that the Cardinal-electors have in selecting a new pope. I can only say that if I were a Cardinal that I would immediately take off the list anybody who wanted to be pope. Wanting this gigantic weight surely shows that they do not have the full understanding of what being the Vicar of Christ truly means. The weight of responsibility for parish priests and even more so for bishops is heavy enough in working to guard the flock. A world-wide flock is an order of magnitude that would weigh heavily on the shoulder of the one to carry it.