Catholic Cardinals the world over are now assembled in
Vatican City for the conclave that will elect the next pope

With the election for pope now underway it is remarkable how little time appears to have been spent on the best way to woo the faithful back to the mother church.

Sure, there are debates about how the church handles child sex abuse, the Vatican bank, Wikileaks and the Curia.

Very little however, has been said about the fact that huge numbers are deserting the church in droves.

That is not only about the sex abuse issue but also because millions feel the church is now a cold house for them, far too conservative and intrusive in its teachings.

There is an overwhelming focus on crime and punishment issues, very little on the good deeds and future changes that can bring the faithful home.

The clerical crisis, where vocations have plummeted, is just one example of that, empty pews across America, Ireland and the world is another.

So you sense that the Cardinals currently in conclave are like shepherds who have lost their flock but have yet to notice.

The internal wranglings about how the Church is run are actually secondary to the macro crisis that the faithful are departing.

Popular popes like John 23rd and John Paul I managed for a time to stem that flow but it has continued apace under Benedict.

The next pope will have the vital task of ensuring that Catholics once again feel wanted and needed in a church that gives every appearance of indifference and a focus on shadow not substance.

That is why whoever is elected faces a mammoth task. Winning the faithful back is the biggest part of that job.