Will new Pope come from the developing world?

Martha Linden

NO clear front-runner has emerged as a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who formally resigns today as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinals across the globe are arriving in Rome in advance of the conclave, when those eligible to vote are literally locked away to cast ballots in secret in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

Cardinals are expected to take part in general congregations, pre-conclave meetings where they discuss the qualities needed in a future Pope.

Speculation is mounting that the cardinals could choose to back a candidate from the developing world – either Africa, Latin America, or Asia – which have the largest Catholic populations.

But it is unclear whether a cardinal from any of these continents would be able to command the necessary majority.


By country, Italian cardinals make up the biggest group of electors, at 28 votes and by continent, Europe is dominant with 62 electors.

There has not been an Italian Pope since John Paul I died in 1978 and some commentators believe that the papacy could well revert back after the reigns of John Paul II, a Pole, and Pope Benedict, who is German-born.

Michael Walsh, a Vatican expert and historian, said he believed the papacy could return to an Italian.

He said Pope Benedict's choice of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi to lead the Vatican's Lenten spiritual retreat this year was "significant" as this was viewed as a papal favour.

"Clearly there is a lot of pressure from around the Church for somebody from Africa or Latin America," he said.

"The question is – who is it going to be? The only names being regularly mentioned are Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana and Cardinal Odilo Scherer from Brazil.

"I think what they may very well do is go back to an Italian.

"The Italians are a very large contingent. They are more likely than most to operate as a bloc, because they know one another.