February 12, 2013

No clear front-runner emerges to succeed Benedict XVI

Few expect big changes. Benedict appointed most of the cardinals who will choose his successor.

By NICOLE WINFIELD The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's resignation opens the door to an array of possible successors, from the conservative cardinal of Milan to a contender from Ghana and several Latin Americans.

Joao Braz de Aviz
click image to enlarge

Joao Braz de Aviz, Brazil

Odilo Pedro Scherer
click image to enlarge

Odilo Pedro Scherer, right, Brazil


Additional Photos Below


BY VATICAN guidelines, an event known as the conclave will convene between 15 and 20 days after the official resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28. The secretive event, held at the Sistine Chapel, will bring together members of the Church’s College of Cardinals to select a new pope.

AS OF LAST NOVEMBER, there were 118 members of the College of Cardinals who were under the age of 80 and eligible to cast a vote for the next pope. Older and retired cardinals can participate in discussions but cannot vote. Pope Benedict XVI cannot vote on his successor.

ALREADY, several names have emerged as possible successors, but there is no active campaigning. There is typically a first ballot held on the first day to get a sense of who will be considered a candidate.

AFTER THAT, there are four votes each day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, until a pope is selected by two-thirds of the cardinals.

BECAUSE NO ONE is allowed inside during voting, the Vatican burns the ballots in a stove. The smoke released from the chimney signals that a vote is completed. Black smoke means a pope has not been named. White smoke means he has.

ONCE A NEW POPE is elected, he is automatically the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Each pope is free to choose his own name, with most choices being a favorite saint or another pope. The only name that is sacrosanct is Peter, the first pope.

Source: Religion News Service


But don't count on a radical change of course for the Catholic Church: Benedict appointed the majority of cardinals who will choose his successor from within their own ranks.

There's no clear front-runner, although several leading candidates have been mentioned over the years as "papabile" -- or having the qualities of a pope.

So, will the papacy return to Italy, after three decades of a Polish and a German pope? Or does Latin America, which counts some 40 percent of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, deserve one of their own at the church's helm?

Will a younger cardinal be considered, now that future popes can feel freer to resign? Or will it again go to an experienced cardinal for another "transitional" papacy?

The 110-plus cardinals who are under age 80 and eligible to vote will weigh all those questions and more when they sequester themselves in the Sistine Chapel next month to choose Benedict's successor, a conclave that will likely produce a new pope by Easter.

Some said Benedict's resignation presents an opportunity to turn to Africa or Latin America, where Catholicism is more vibrant.

"Europe today is going through a period of cultural tiredness, exhaustion, which is reflected in the way Christianity is lived," said Monsignor Antonio Marto, the bishop of Fatima in central Portugal. "You don't see that in Africa or Latin America, where there is a freshness, an enthusiasm about living the faith."

"Perhaps we need a pope who can look beyond Europe and bring to the entire church a certain vitality that is seen on other continents."

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa agreed.

"I think we would have a better chance of getting someone outside of the Northern Hemisphere this time, because there are some really promising cardinals from other parts of the world," he said.

Despite that enthusiasm, more than half of those eligible to vote in the College of Cardinals hail from Europe, giving the continent an edge even though there's no rule that cardinals vote according to their geographic blocs.

It's also likely the next pope won't radically alter the church's course, although surprises are possible.

"Given the preponderance of cardinals appointed by popes John Paul and Benedict, it is unlikely that the next pope will make many radical changes," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit author. "On the other hand, the papacy can change a man, and the Holy Spirit is always ready to surprise."

• A handful of Italians fit the bill, top among them Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan. Scola is close to Benedict, has a fierce intellect and leads the most important archdiocese in Italy -- no small thing given that Italians still dominate the College of Cardinals.

• Other leading Italians include Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's culture office and another intellectual heavyweight who quotes Hegel and Neitzsche as easily, and almost as frequently, as the Gospels. He has climbed into the spotlight with his "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, an initiative to enter into dialogue with the worlds of art, culture and science -- and most importantly atheists.

• Benedict's onetime theology student, Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, 68, has long been considered to have the stuff of a pope -- multilingual, affable and, most importantly, Benedict's blessing.

He has been dealing, however, with a difficulties in Vienna, where a revolt of dissident priests has questioned church teachings on everything from women's ordination to celibacy for priests. His decision to let a gay Catholic serve on a parish council raised eyebrows among some conservatives, who said the move clearly sealed his fate as too liberal for today's College of Cardinals.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

Leonardo Sandri
click image to enlarge

Leonardo Sandri, Argentina


Christoph Schoenborn
click image to enlarge

Christoph Schoenborn, Austria


Timothy Dolan
click image to enlarge

Timothy Dolan, United States


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)