The Catholic geek in me would love to see an Urban IX. What about Anastasius V? Ooh, that's nice! And when is someone going to come along and claim the name Sixtus VI? That itself would be a bold move. Benedict XVI resigned after having visited a couple of years prior the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V. The Pope who followed him was Boniface VIII. Whoever chooses Boniface X will have to redeem the name from some of his predecessors (Dante had Boniface VIII in the 8th circle of hell). Celestine VI? No, probably not. What about Peter II? Not a chance. That name is too loaded thanks to the prophecy attributed to St. Malachy. If the Pope is looking for something eschatological, how about Telesphorus II? That name means "bringing to an end."
Let's look at some of the more probable ones, after which I will make my bold prediction:
- Pius XIII--This name bears a lasting and excellent legacy. The truth of Pius XII's work to save Jews during WWII would make this choice good for relations with them (although the media will continue to try to smear Pius XII's name by clinging to the long-debunked black legend). Particularly if reunion with SSPX is a goal of the next pontificate, this name would be a worthy choice. This choice is quite likely.
- Leo XIV--Leo XIII was the oldest pope and the third-longest reigning pope. Leo XIII famously heard the discussion between God and Satan in which the evil one requested 100 years to destroy the Church. After the conversation, he wrote the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to be prayed after every Mass. Some have theorized that this 100 years began around 1916 or 1917 and the Fatima apparitions. This would be quite a prophetic choice.
- John XXIV--John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. If a Pope chose XXIV, the media would be uproariously ebullient that the newly elected Holy Father would call a Third in which they themselves would be able to settle matters of Church doctrine once and for all. I think this choice is a bit unlikely, particularly since the past two popes have chosen names to pick up with the legacies of their most recent name-bearers.
- Benedict XVII--This name would be unlikely if an elderly pope is chosen, but may be more probable if a younger pope is chosen, as a way of showing continuity in the face of sharp distinction.
- Gregory XVII--This would be an intriguing choice. Gregory means awake or watchful. With the world in increasing turmoil, financial distress, upheaval in nature, and corruption in politics, we need a watchful Pope like Benedict XVI. Gregory XVI was also an advocate for human rights, condemning the slave trade with a papal bull of 1839.
- John Paul III--This name, I think, is less likely than Pius, Benedict, or Leo. But then, who am I? There would be a lot of excitement in the choice of this name, particularly as the memory of John Paul II lives vividly in our hearts.
- Francis I / Dominic I--It's going to happen someday. Another Franciscan or a Dominican is going to be elected at some point (although there have not been that many) and he is going to take one of these names. I think we'll first have a Dominic I. Just a hunch.
- Thomas I / Augustine I--Pure Catholic awesome! May it happen someday. There are so many great saints who would be worthy choices for a I. Chrysostom? Bonaventure? Maximus? Ignatius? Justin? Irenaeus?
My bold prediction: The next Holy Father will be...
Pope Paul VII.
What better way to continue in the theme of the new evangelization than to take upon himself the name of the primary evangelist to the gentiles? The world needs a St. Paul figure, a writer, a journeyman, to stand in the Areopagoi of today to proclaim the message boldly and with all power and apostolic zeal of the Petrine office. Benedict XVI resigned in anticipation of these types of abilities in the next Holy Father. Less than three months ago, Paul VI was declared venerable. Benedict XVI also pulled heavily from Paul VI's Populorum Progressio in his final encyclical Caritas in Veritate. I think this name is the perfect choice.
But then again I remind you, who am I? Your guess is as good as mine!
Update, 3/13/13: So I was off with this prediction. Further, my "hunch" was wrong, too! I love how the Lord takes the extra step to keep me humble. He has a lot of work to do, as you can tell. As to my "bold" predictions, I guess I was 2 for 3 (or should I say 2 for 4 thanks to my "hunch"). Not bad.