Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (Italian 70). President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Asked by Pope Benedict to lead his Lenten retreat this year, which occurred last week. Benedict afterwards called the talks "brilliant"; others in attendance also commented on Ravasi's prodigious intellectual ability. John Allen in NCR notes that in December 2010, he offered an impromptu welcome for a lecture at the Vatican by a Cambridge cosmologist. In the course of fifteen minutes, Ravasi cited Nietzsche, Kant, Levi-Strauss, Stephen J. Gould, and Isaac Newton. A voracious reader.
At the same time, he packs the house at public talks. Wrote a popular column in a Catholic daily for 5 years. He's deeply invested in nonconfrontational conversations between believers and non-believers, science and religion, and in making faith rationally comprehensible in a postmodern world.
He's not an ideologue. He tweets (and apparently it's really him), quotes Amy Winehouse -- who he's taken to listening to try to better understand young people today; he says half his friends are non-believers, and when asked if he wanted to convert them, he replied "Absolutely not." John Allen calls him "the most interesting man in the Church."
At the same time, he's better known outside the Vatican than inside. He's never had a pastoral appointment, a diocese to run. And the Council of Culture has none of the power or ability to curry favor carried by some of the other Cardinals.
(I don't have the heart to tell him I already know how The Wire ends.)
What're you lookin' at?
In the Movie, He'd Be Played by: James Gandolfini
Why the Cardinals Might Want Him: He's Italian. Knows the Curia, and yet isn't connected to any recent scandal. He's well connected to modern culture. A communicator.
Why They Might Not: Has never been a diocesan bishop. Little direct pastoral experience. Not as well known to the group as others.