VATICAN CITY - One of the cardinals getting ready to enter the upcoming conclave knows that he himself is not papabile -- that is, his is not one of the names being considered as a possible next pope.
Perhaps for this reason he has taken the time to lay out to La Stampa, in a letter written with an old-fashioned silver fountain pen, what he believes is the ideal profile for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI. Other cardinals have spoken to us in confidence, and a few have even spoken in public, about the man they will be seeking when the conclave begins later this month. While an ideal picture begins to come into focus, so too does the challenge of finding one man to meet all the requirements.
"What we want in a new pope is someone who isn’t too old and has good physical stamina, which is what Benedict XVI indicated to us in his own statement of resignation," wrote the anonymous Cardinal. "That he is not too young has been repeated by many of my fellow cardinals so that we avoid another reign of 30 years. (a reference to John Paul II's 27-year reign) That we need a pontiff able to reform the Curia (Vatican government) is something many think; that the faithful expect a shepherd pope who is able to bring forth a positive message is something we all know.
This time, age and physical strength are likely to weigh in. Just like they were important in the second conclave in 1978 after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, when the cardinals chose a 58-year-old cardinal as his successor: Karol Wojtyla. As he announced that he would be stepping down, Benedict XVI said: “In today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.”
Even with the possibility that resignation, after Benedict set a new precedent, could pave the way for a very young successor, most cardinals say they believe the most likely successor is someone “around 65-70 years-old.”
Sixty-five was the age that Pope Paul VI was elected, a pope who worked for decades inside the offices of the Secretariat of State and knew the Roman Curia inside-out. Knowledge of curial mechanisms is requested of the new Pontifex Maximus, especially because several cardinals have said that a priority of the next pope will be to reform the Church's central governance, a reshaping of the Secretariat of State, as well as improving "collegiality" between the world's bishops and the offices of the Vatican.
The next pope should therefore have, according to the parameters outlined by the cardinals, both the qualities required to reform and the determination to actually do so that Pius X showed at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the case that the man chosen does not have the “gift of government”, he should be immediately assisted by the Secretary of State. For this reason, many consider imperative that the new successor should not keep current curial employees on until their current terms end in five years, but ask that a new team could be formed within a few months.
High on the wish list is that the new pope must be a spiritual man, a true shepherd. A pope who is able to communicate to the world, announcing in a positive way and proactive about the gospel’s message, who searches to overcome boundaries and fences, as John XXIII “the Good Pope” did with a smile. The cardinals will look for a shepherd rather than a head of state, and it is for this reason that -- despite security concerns -- several would welcome a reduction of the bodyguards who surround the pope, as well as a greater simplicity in the rites he celebrates.
This "sketch-up" envisages the ideal candidate has a healthy dose of charisma, a man capable of expressing the face of a communicative Church, like John Paul II knew how to do. One who is able to have the voice of the papacy heard at an international level on the great issues of peace, the clashes and crossings of civilization, as well as with the Catholic Church’s relationship with other religions - exactly the same as Wojtyla did.
It’s difficult to imagine who could aspire to take up the legacy of Benedict XVI, whose fundamental teaching ran so deep, whose ability to speak off-the-cuff with such depth and eloquence. The successor, whoever he is, will continue to draw inspiration from him. If he needs advice, that part will be easy -- Ratzinger will be his new neighbor.
In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.
SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.
What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?
But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.
An appetite for gentrification
I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.
In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.
This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.
Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.
Informal street vendors are casualties.
A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.
On paper, this all sounds great.
But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.
This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.
In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.
A call for food justice
Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.
It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.
In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.
Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.
Upending an existing foodscape
In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.
San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"
But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.
Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.
All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.
So what happens when new competitors come to town?
Starting at a disadvantage
As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.
My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"
San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.
When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.
Going up against the urban food machine
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.
I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.
When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.
Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.
It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.
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