Collapsing Catholicism in Europe, radical Islam and biotechnology will be the three major issues the cardinals will consider at the next Conclave, predicted papal biographer and columnist George Weigel in an article published in the Washington Post Feb. 15.

Weigel says controversial issues, such as abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women to the priesthood, will not be issues at the next Conclave. Instead, they will all be “matters of global consequence.”

Weigel said one of the cardinals’ major preoccupations is Europe’s “demographic suicide.” He pointed out that “no Western European state has a replacement level birth rate.” Catholic practice there is at its lowest and the society’s radical secularization “dissolves a people's sense of responsibility for the future.”

Weigel also said cardinal-electors are concerned about radical Islam as “an implacable enemy of religious freedom.”

The cardinals know that “there are two culturally assertive religious communities with global reach in the world – Catholicism and Islam,” Weigel wrote.

They are considering how the Church's dialogue “with the worlds-within-worlds of Islam strengthen the position of Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals” to develop a case for religious tolerance.

As much as the Catholic Church is supportive of new technologies, it is also wary of the attempts to manufacture humans through the latest advances in biotechnology.

The cardinals are concerned about how the Church can “shape the global debate about the new biotechnologies so that humanity gets to the 22nd century without finding itself ensnared in Aldous Huxley's brave new world.”

In selecting the next pope, the cardinals must consider that, thanks to the pontificate of John Paul II, “the world and the Church now expect the Pope to exercise a global ministry of religious presence and moral witness,” said Weigel.

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The cardinals will also be seek a man who can “bring the Church to the world in a compelling way, and reform the Church's discipline,” wrote Weigel.