Africans Among Favorites to Replace Benedict

Monday, 11 Feb 2013 12:34 PM

By Lisa Barron

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With the shocking announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will be stepping down at the end of the month, all eyes are now on the men who are being considered to replace him and become the 266th Pope.

Many within the Roman Catholic Church believe the time has come for a non-European to ascend to the papacy. Here is a look at some of the front-runners:

Peter Turkson (Ghana, age 64)
is the one of the top African candidates. Head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau, he is spokesman for the Church's social conscience and backs world financial reform. He studied and taught abroad in New York and Rome before being ordained to the priesthood in 1975 and appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast – the former colonial capital of Ghana and a key diocese – in 1992.

Turkson’s popularity in West Africa has been boosted by his regular TV appearances, particularly a weekly broadcast on state television channel Ghana TV called "Catholic Digest." He has maintained strong ties with his native country in addition to his duties in the Vatican.

He sparked an outcry last year, however, when he screened a YouTube film at an international meeting of bishops featuring alarmist predictions at the rise of Islam in Europe. The clip, “Muslim Demographics,” features claims such as: “In just 39 years France will be an Islamic republic.”

Editor's Note: Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

Still, colleagues in Ghana confirmed that Turkson would be unlikely to take the church in a radical direction on contentious issues such as abortion and contraception. In the past, he has not ruled out the use of condoms but has advocated abstinence and fidelity.

Francis Arinze (Nigeria, age 80) is also a strong African contender. He is Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, having served as prefect from 2002 to 2008. He is the current Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, succeeding Joseph Ratzinger in 2005.

Arinze became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world when he was ordained to the episcopate in 1965 at the age of 32. He was one of the principal advisers to Pope John Paul II, and was considered a top candidate before the 2005 papal conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

He made his name during the Nigeria-Biafra war when, as Archbishop of Onitsha, he organized the distribution of food and medical supplies to the poor in a region torn apart by the conflict. He was made a cardinal in 1985 and is known for his tolerance of elements of traditional worship in the Catholic Mass.

Arinze’s age, however, could be a drawback.

In addition, there is a large and growing Catholic population in Latin America to consider. The region already represents 42 percent of the world's 1.2 billion-strong Catholics, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in Europe.

Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras, age 71) is a top pick from Latin America. He is the current Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, president of Caritas Internationalis, and was president of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) from 1995 to 1999. Rodríguez was elevated to cardinal in 2001.

He was the Vatican's spokesman with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, on the issue of Third World debt, and has encouraged countries to give development aid.

He is widely viewed as a moderate, and his campaign for human rights and the poor have won widespread praise.

Editor's Note: Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

Angelo Scola (Italy, age 71)
is the leading candidate from Europe, which accounts for around half the cardinals who can vote but only a quarter of the world's Catholics. All previous Popes have been European.

Scola is the archbishop of Milan, a springboard to the papacy, and is many Italians' bet to win. He is an expert on bioethics and heads a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding.

However, he seems to lack the charisma that many cardinals might prefer.

Marc Ouellet (Canada, age 68) is effectively the Vatican's top staff director as head of the Congregation for Bishops that appoints bishops throughout the world. He was appointed Archbishop of Quebec in 2002 and made cardinal a year later.

Ouellet attracted controversy in 2010 when he addressed an anti-abortion conference in Quebec City, saying that terminating a pregnancy was a "moral crime."

He once said, though, that becoming Pope "would be a nightmare," and the widespread secularism of his native Quebec could work against him.


Claudio Hummes (Brazil, age 78) was elevated to cardinal in February 2001. He served as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in the Roman Curia from 2006 to 2010, and previously served as Archbishop of Fortaleza and Archbishop of Sao Paolo.

Hummes, a member of the Order of Friars Minor and an outspoken proponent of social justice, was considered a top candidate in 2005.

He has criticized the spread of global capitalism, issued an official statement condemning the anonymous attacks on homeless indigenous people, and said in a 2006 interview with a Brazilian newspaper that even though celibacy is part of Catholic history and culture, the Church could review the question because "celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary action."

Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone (Italy, age 78) currently serves as Cardinal Secretary of State and Camerlengo. He previously served as Archbishop of Vercelli; Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Pope, was Prefect; and Archbishop of Genoa.

He was elevated to cardinal in 2003. In 2008, Bertone was named Cardinal Bishop of Frascati. Besides Italian, Bertone speaks fluent French, Spanish, German and Portuguese and can read Polish, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

But Bertone has not been without controversy. In his book "The Case of the Pope," Geoffrey Robertson criticizes Bertone for his rejection of the "demand that a bishop be obligated to contact police to denounce a priest who had admitted pedophilia." Bertone argued that "if a priest cannot confide in his bishop for fear of being denounced then it would mean that there is no more liberty of conscience."

In 2010, Bertone publicly blamed the child sex scandal on homosexual infiltration of the clergy.

Keith O'Brien (Scotland, age 74) is the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

Born in Northern Ireland, O'Brien studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh before studying for the priesthood at St. Andrew's College and was ordained in 1965.

O'Brien has a keen interest in foreign missions, having twice visited the territory in northern Nigeria previously adopted by his own Archdiocese and his priests who are loan to dioceses in Central America.

But O¹Brien is sometimes known as the "Cardinal of Controversy," often speaking his mind on issues close to him.

Editor's Note: Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

Raymond Burke (USA, age 64) is the current Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He previously served as Archbishop of St. Louis and Bishop of La Crosse. He is the highest-ranking American in the Vatican.

Burke is seen by many as one of the most conservative of the American bishops, and increasingly as a leader of the conservative wing of cardinals in the Church.

Timothy Dolan (USA, age 62) would be a popular choice, but he is a long shot. He became the voice of U.S. Catholicism after being named archbishop of New York in 2009.

Dolan’s humor and dynamism have impressed the Vatican, but cardinals are said to be wary of a "superpower Pope" and his laid back style may be too American for some.


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