I think the papal conclave should not be in the Sistine Chapel
Today I spent about half an hour in the Sistine Chapel. Amid the surging crowds and the guards crying out "No photos," I prayed for the coming conclave, especially for the bishop who might sit where I was sitting.
The chapel is splendid with beautiful frescos and art works, but I'm bold enough to suggest that the cardinals should choose another site to gather to elect the new pope.
First of all, there are few prominent images of women in the chapel, though Mary is at the side of the muscular Christ of the Last Judgment, Eve is taken from the side of Adam on the ceiling, and there are women in the piece on the Sermon on the Mount. Yet women do make more than half of the Church.
Secondly, Michelangelo's Last Judgment, though an incredible piece of art, presents a muscled church with lots of severe judgment. My guess is that few of the cardinals have the muscled mass of Christ or many of the other men there. But should the Church give an image of a muscular institution, or should it be a servant church which seeks to preach the truth in love?
Furthermore, the sad and horrid images of the damned in the Last Judgment may have served earlier centuries to rouse the people to lives of faith, hope, and love, but maybe the cardinals need to listen to the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount on the side wall as well as the loving touch of God creating "Adam" - the human person.
But where should they go to discuss and elect the next pope?
I don't know but I suggest the church of San Bartholomew on the Isla Tiburtina. They could start out in the Sistine chapel, gazing at Michelangelo's graphic image of the flayed skin of the apostle Bartholomew.
Then they might walk in pilgrimage to San Bartolomeo where the San Egidio community has set up memorials of the "new martyrs" of the twentieth century.
There the cardinals would be surrounded by relics of men and women who have shed their blood for the faith from throughout the world: the missal Monseñor Oscar Romero used at the Mass when he was martyred; a letter from Franz Jägerstätter, written from a Nazi prison; a stone that was used to sink the body of the Polish priest, Jerzy Popiełusko; the stole of an Italian priest killed for working against the Mafia; the sandal of a sister killed in the Ecuadorian Amazon region; the prayer beads of Russian Orthodox priest Alexander Men; and more.
The cardinals could contemplate the icon of Christ and the martyrs, that includes many martyrs and recall that their own red robes should indicate their willingness to die for the faith as so many have died.
That would probably be a very different type of papal conclave and who knows how God could use that to give life to the People of God who long for faith, hope, and love.
I doubt this will happen, but just maybe God will work miracles within the Sistine Chapel.
We can only pray for this.