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Possible Successors Of John Paul II

Possible successors

The choices for a new pope are dizzyingly complex and political. The prime candidates – papabili is the word ("popeable" in slang Italian) – include a Nigerian, a Colombian and even a Canadian. There are also a couple of Italians on the list.

Papal selection and election involve intrigue, politics, theology, nationality, personality, and age. No one should be seen actively aspiring to be a pope. An old maxim in Rome is: "To enter the conclave a pope is to exit a cardinal." Another: "Those who talk don't know and those who know don't talk." There is also a canon of church law, going back to the Middle Ages, that forbids anyone actively campaigning to be pope while the incumbent is alive, punishable by excommunication. Any candidate in his 50s is considered too young this time. The new pope must be multilingual, and certainly fluent in English and Italian. He must also be male, single and celibate. In theory, any male Roman Catholic is eligible to be pope, but in practice over the past several hundred years the selection has become restricted to cardinals under the age of 80.

Theologically and politically, he must be conservative to arch-conservative, perhaps moderate, maybe a cautious liberal – like John XXIII. In this post-McLuhan era, it helps if he has "presence," as in, "Does he perform well in public and does he look good in front of the television camera?" Cardinals will choose as pope one who seems best attuned to the concerns of the majority. Father Thomas Reese – a Jesuit scholar from New York – says those concerns may not be the ones that get the most publicity. "The western media thinks the cardinals are going to be debating women priests, birth control, abortion gay rights and married priests. That's not going to be the case." Reese suggests talk will focus on things like centralization and decentralization and whether the next pope should be a strong, vocal one.

There have been good popes, brilliant popes, bad popes, funny popes, scandalous popes. Pope Paul III was known as "Cardinal Petticoat" for his indiscretions. In his book Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, Eamon Duffy of Yale University Press describes how Paul III put aside his mistress, donned his papal tiara and launched the Counter Reformation. London bookmakers doubtless are working on tip sheets on the next pope, listing favourites and longshots, giving odds. It won't be an easy task, as there is no clear favourite as to who will succeed John Paul II to become the 267th pope.

The line goes back to the apostle Peter, St. Peter to Roman Catholics. The first pope elected after Peter was St. Linus, in 67. Best guesses for next pope are: Cardinal Francis Arinze (AP Photo) Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, 72. He'd be the first black pope since Gelasius I, who reigned from 492 and 496. Arinze was close to John Paul II. Best thing going for him is he was baptized 60 years ago by Father Cyprian, a Nigerian priest whom John Paul II has beatified. A black pope baptized by a saint, the next step after beatification, would be something of a sensation for the new millennium. Arinze espouses traditional church doctrine when it comes to matters of the family. In 2003, he was invited to give the commencement address at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The family, he said, is under seige. "It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce." Seventy faculty members signed a letter protesting against the speech.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 69, is the Archbishop of Milan. He's Italian and conservative. He's also well-liked by the very conservative Opus Dei movement. Tettamanzi agrees with the pope's views on birth control and sexual matters. He was ordained at age 23 and became a cardinal in 1998 at the age of 63. A former seminary professor and rector, he has served as general secretary and vice president of the Italian episcopal conference. Pope John Paul named him archbishop of Genoa in 1995. Tettamanzi has also been listed as the favourite on several bookmaking websites.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, 71, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, is immensely powerful within the Vatican bureaucracy.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Archbishop of Québec, 60 Ouellet is one of the newer cardinals, appointed on September 28, 2003, less than a year after he was named Archbishop of Québec. He was born in 1944, making him one of the younger contenders. He's regarded as exceptionally brilliant and a very humble man in Rome.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 71, Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels, is well-travelled, admired by most other cardinals. He seems to have the proper attitude, evident when he told The New York Times: "Any man who enters the conclave desiring to be pope must either be mad or unconscious. He should be forced, dragged to the chair of St. Peter. A good pope must never have thought of himself as pope in the first place." But on other matters he is far less conservative than most cardinals appointed by Pope John Paul II. In a speech in January 2004, he broke the Roman Catholic church's taboo on the use of condoms, declaring that, in certain circumstances, they should be used to prevent the spread of AIDS. He was careful to say abstinence is the preferred method of prevention. But if someone who was HIV-positive did have sex, it would be sinful not to use a condom.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 77, served as prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which makes him one of the most powerful men in the Vatican. He is conservative and a longtime trusted advisor of John Paul II. He has served as archbishop of Munich. Not being Italian may be his biggest handicap. Cardinal Ratzinger may be the only papabili to have a fan club.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia is 74 years old. He is a member of the Curia – the Catholic Church's Cabinet – and a trusted adviser of the current pope. He is also a champion of social justice. Once, disguised as a milkman, he confronted Medellin drug trafficker Pablo Escobar on his doorstep and demanded he repent for his sins.

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