Wednesday 21 February 2018

The Papal frontrunners

The 115 voting cardinals of the Catholic Church began their conclave to choose the successor to Pope Benedict XVI yesterday. There is a saying in Rome that "he who enters the conclave a pope exits as a cardinal". Nevertheless, four cardinals have emerged as top contenders.

1 Angelo Scola (Italy, 71) is archbishop of Milan, often a springboard to the papacy, and the leading Italian candidate. An expert on moral theology, Pope Benedict moved him there from Venice – another papal launching pad – in 2011 in what some saw as a sign of approval. He is familiar with Islam as head of a centre for Muslim-Christian understanding. His dense intellectual oratory could put off cardinals seeking a charismatic preacher.

2 Odilo Scherer (Brazil, 63) is the leading candidate from Latin America, where 42pc of the world's Catholics live. His German family roots and stint working in the Vatican administration, the Curia, give him important links to Europe, the largest voting bloc. He is known for a sense of humour and tweets regularly. The rapid growth of Protestant churches in Brazil that are wooing away Catholics could count against him.

3 Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68) is the Vatican's top staff director, as head of the Congregation for Bishops. An academic theologian in the mould of Benedict, he once said becoming pope "would be a nightmare". Well-connected within the Curia, he also has ties to Latin America. Factors against him include his rough time as archbishop of Quebec, where his conservative views clashed with the secular society there.

4 Sean O'Malley (US, 68) is the "clean hands" candidate, if cardinals make settling the sexual abuse crisis top priority. Appointed in 2003 to Boston, the third diocese in a row where he was called in to clean up after abuse problems, he sold off church properties to pay damages. He also shut down little-used churches despite strong protests, a sign of mettle. Conclaves have long been wary of picking a "superpower pope" from the US.

Irish Independent

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