As the present issue of AD2000 goes to press, a conclave of the Church's eligible elector cardinals (those under 80) has been underway to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II.
An analysis of the new Pope Benedict XVI and the challenges facing him will be provided in the following month's issue. Meanwhile, consideration is given on the following pages to the considerable legacy of Pope John Paul II.
From the extraordinary coverage given to the death of a larger-than- life Pope and his funeral, it is evident that this successor will have exceptionally big shoes to fill in terms of spiritual and intellectual qualities, a powerful and charismatic personality, remarkable life experiences and facility in many languages.
Apart from this daunting challenge, an even greater one could be to oversee the effective implementation of John Paul II's vision for the Church.
This was set down in an amazing succession of encyclicals, apostolic letters and numerous other documents and addresses covering virtually every aspect of Catholic belief and practice examined in the light of the Church's Tradition and the teachings of Vatican II.
Relatively little of this treasure trove of inspired teachings has impacted on the Church's grassroots - parishes, schools, universities, theology institutes, religious orders and bureaucracies.
Even if a new Pope cannot match John Paul II's prolific teaching output, Catholics will be indebted to him if he can prevail on all the world's bishops to implement his predecessor's spiritual blueprint.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email - email@example.com)