Precinct 333

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Papabile -- Possible Popes

UPDATE -- April 9, 2005: After reading this post, consider going to my new post on the conclave, Thoughts On The Papal Election of 2005. It looks at the upcoming conclave in light of events of the last week, and considers the chances of some of "possible popes" mentioned below, along with some additional candidates who have emerged since the death of John Paul II.

* * * *

In theory, the next Pope can be any baptized Catholic male. That leaves a lot of possible candidates out there. But the likelihood of us seeing the election of Ted Kennedy, Feddie from Southern Appeal, or one of my old seminary classmates is pretty remote. It has been centuries since someone NOT a member of the College of Cardinals was elevated to the Throne of St. Peter. That narrows the field significantly, to fewer than 200 "princes of the Church. When we exclude non-voting members of the College (over age 80) as likely too old to be elected, that leaves us with 117 (of the maximum 120 allowed by Church law) Cardinal Electors. In 2003, the Pope did create one Cardinal "in pectorre", meaning the name has been kept secret. It is believed that the secret Cardinal is one of the bishops of the Catholic Church loyal to the Vatican which has been oppressed in the People's Republic of China. The Vatican could quickly announce his name and have him participate in the conclave IF he can be safely gotten out of China and if he is under 80.

Different names are already circulating as papabile -- "possible popes" -- as we head towards a likely conclave in the month of April. I've written on this before (and got 300 hits on this earlier post just yesterday, since I am #3 on Google's search on the subject), but I think it is time to look at the topic again, as a conclave seems much closer than it did in February.

Generally speaking, church observers group the 117 cardinals eligible to elect the next pope into four overlapping constituencies:

There are those, likely a majority, who decidedly don't want the next papacy to last as long as John Paul's, who was elected Pope in 1978 at age 58.

They will favour an older man, maybe a caretaker pope, to nanny the church as it adapts to a new era without John Paul's fist on the tiller, but who will not stay in the job too long.

There are cardinals who will want a pope from the global South, where nearly 70 per cent of the world's Catholics now live.

Opposing them will be cardinals who think one of John Paul's great failures was his inability to address European secularism, and who, therefore, feel the next pope should be a Western European.

And there will be cardinals who, despite sharing John Paul's conservative theology — which virtually all of them do — have chafed under his centralized iron authority and will want the next pope to be more collegial, which is Catholic code language for allowing national churches and bishops to be more in charge of their own show.
What names are being tossed around as serious papabile? Well, here are a number I have encountered.

  • Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, of Milan, a conservative moral theologian who has tolerated the relaxing of the strict interpretation of the Church's teaching on condom use when Catholic groups distributed condoms to prostitutes for protection from HIV/AIDS. He is also a strong supporter of Opus Dei.
  • Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, 75, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. An ideal candidate if the Cardinals are looking for a candidate from outside of Europe.
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany, 72, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
  • Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, age 77, a German who has served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for most of the current pontificate. He is doctrinally conservative and is a lightning-rod for criticism among Church liberals. At the same time, he is personally popular, an intellectual giant, and a man who, like the current pope, is a believer in ecumenical work and is also not afraid to defend the teachings of the Church when they are called into question. He is dean of the College of Cardinals.
  • Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 77, an Italian, the Vatican Secretary of State and vice-dean of the College of Cardinals. He is one of those closest to the current pope, and has the advantage over Ratzinger of being an Italian. There are about 20 Italians who will be voting in the conclave if it comes now.
  • Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is a likely candidate if those who believe a candidate from the Southern Hemisphere should be elected, especially if the desire is for a pastoral rather than a curial candidate.
  • Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria. He is currently Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, he is seen as one of the bright stars of the Curia. Cardinal Arinze is frequently mentioned as a candidate for the papacy, and would be the first African pope in some 1500 years. He would also, as best can be determined, be the first black pope.
  • Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, retired Archibishop of Paris. A Jew by birth, he grew up a yellow-star wearing boy named Aaron and lost his mother in Auschwitz. he is actively involved in inter-religious dialogue.
  • Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria. He is probably a bit young to be elected this conclave, as he would likely serve for a period of time similar to the John Paul II, who was elected at 58. On the other hand, he is theologically close to the current pontiff, and has a similar warm pastoral style. If the decision is for another non-Italian Western European, this would likely be the man. Another plus is that he took over in Vienna following a sexual abuse scandal forced out his predecessor and Schönborn dealt with the situation very effectively. Such a background would,sad to say, be useful given the scandals of recent years. If an older pope is elected, expect Schönborn to be seen as a leading candidate in the next conclave.
  • Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 62, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He is not as hard-line as the current pope in many areas, but is widely respected among the latin American Cardinals. He is often mentioned as papabile.
  • Cardinal Ivan Dias, 68, Archbishop of Mumbai(Bombay), India. He is a native of india, a former member of the diplomatic corps, and is fluent in many languages. Dias followed the path common for such previous popes as Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. He would be the first Asian pope, and is considered to be a dark-horse among possible candidates.
One thing to note is that each of them (except Schönborn & Rodríguez Maradiaga) is an older man, indicating that we are likely to see a "caretaker pope" who will likely give the Church a little breathing room after the third longest papacy in history, one defined by arguably the strongest papal personality in a century. Such popes are not generally expected to do much, but can be surprising. The last "caretaker" was Pope John XXIII, who was expected to do little more than correct Pius XII's failure to appoint Milan's Archbishop Montini to the College. Instead he issued the call for the Second Vatican Council, changing the Catholic Church forever.

Ultimately, we don't know who the next pope will be, or where he is from. That is up to the Holy Spirit, acting through the Cardinal Electors in the conclave.


Here is an Australian article that matches up well with much of my list, though with some differences.

This ABC News article is also sort of interesting.

The Houston Chronicle carried this article from Reuters giving a list with biographies. There are some significant additions and subtractions from my list.

In addition, I've got one Czech reader pushing his personal favorite, along with a list of other candidates.


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