When the time finally comes for the cardinals of the Roman
Catholic church to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, they will at least be more comfortable than in the past. The red-hatted clerics will no longer be housed in spartan cells near Rome’s Sistine Chapel, where the voting has taken place for centuries. Instead, they will bed down at the St. Marta Residence, a Vatican building as posh as a luxury hotel. To maintain the strict secrecy of the ever-mysterious selection process, the cardinals will not be allowed to use their cell phones. But the announcement that Catholics have a new leader will still be signalled to the world by a single puff of white smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney.
Speculation on the Pope’s successor may grow more intense in Rome on Feb. 21, when the ailing John Paul is scheduled to install 22 new cardinals—19 of whom are under 80 years of age. Only cardinals under 80 are entitled to vote on the selection of a new pontiff, and following their installation there will be 123 voting cardinals. To replace John Paul following his death, a cardinal would have to receive a majority of two-thirds plus one. And as with political conventions, blocks of votes often emerge to stop or promote a candidate. Poland’s Karol Wojtyla—the first non-Italian pontiff in 450 years—only slipped through on the third ballot in 1978 to become John Paul II after two Italian cardinals, one conservative and one liberal, were ruled out.
The Pope, say analysts, has almost ensured that his successor will be as conservative as he is by naming like-minded cardinals—and he has appointed all but 17 of them. Seven of the new cardinals are also from Italy, leading Silvio Tomasevic, a prominent Vatican expert in Rome, to believe that the new pope could come from that
country. “In the early years of his papacy, John Paul strengthened the representation of the Third World in the College of Cardinals,” says Tomasevic. “Now he has given a very strong signal in favor of Europe and of Italy.” Vatican watchers believe that the leading Italian candidate is Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi, 64, of Genoa, who has the respect of both progressive and conservative cardinals. Another is Carlos Martini, 69, the highly regarded archbishop of Milan and a scholar who knows 11 languages. Elsewhere in Europe, Christoph Schoenborn, 53, the archbishop of Vienna, is admired for the way he has tackled scandals and divisions within the Austrian church, while Brussels archbishop Godfried Danneels,
64, has gained a quiet following on both left and right.
Latin America, which is home to nearly half the world’s Catholics, could also produce the next pope. Mexico City Archbishop Norberte Rivera Carrera, 55, a progressive on social issues while a conservative in theology, is seen as a strong contender. He is followed by Archbishop Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 66, of Colombia, who has wide contacts among Latin American bishops. And for the first time in more than 1,500 years, there is a chance that a black pontiff could assume the throne of St. Peter. Nigerian Archbishop Francis Arinze is charismatic and has distinguished himself while in charge of relations with other churches for the Vatican. Although traditionalists would likely vote against him, the cardinals have made surprise choices before—such as the time they selected a Polish pope.
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