That an earthly agency might hold the key to the kingdom of heaven is a fond hope of mankind, such that the passing of the Vicar of Christ touches even those who long since rejected that hope. Into whose hand will the key pass? News reports suggest that the succession may fall to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican’s chief theologian. With no way to game the odds that this might happen, I think it worth noting that Ratzinger is one of the few men alive capable of surprising the world. Ten years ago, he shocked the Catholic world with this warning:
We might have to part with the notion of a popular Church. It is possible that we are on the verge of a new era in the history of the Church, under circumstances very different from those we have faced in the past, when Christianity will resemble the mustard seed [Matthew 13:31-32], that is, will continue only in the form of small and seemingly insignificant groups, which yet will oppose evil with all their strength and bring Good into this world. 
He added, "Christianity might diminish into a barely discernable presence," because modern Europeans "do not want to bear the yoke of Christ". The Catholic Church, he added, might survive only in cysts resembling the kibbutzim of Israel. He compared these cysts to Jesus’ mustard seed, faith of whose dimensions could move mountains. Ratzinger’s grim forecast provoked a minor scandal, complete with coverage in Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading newsmagazine. The offending sentences did not appear in the English translation, "Salt of the Earth", and were not discussed further in polite Catholic company.
Cardinal Ratzinger is a Prince of the Church who threatened, as it were, to abandon the capital and conduct guerrilla war from the mountains. Years before Europe’s demographic death-spiral was apparent, Ratzinger had the vision to see and the courage to say that the Catholic Church stood on the brink of a catastrophic decline. This observation is now commonplace. As George Weigel, John Paul II’s biographer, wrote in March, "Europe, and especially Western Europe, is in the midst of a crisis of civilizational morale … Europe is depopulating itself at a rate unseen since the Black Death of the 14th century."  [Source]
The article makes some other interesting observations by George Weigel and others. The last piece by the author of the article is classic:
But Ratzinger places his hopes on the purely spiritual weapons that made Christianity a force to begin with. He has said, in effect, "I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it."
How often we forget the power of a faith as small as a mustard seed. We are now use to the idea of splitting an atom causing a nuclear explosion and have not realized that splitting the mustard seed of faith can also cause an explosion, especially when practiced within our nuclear families.