Cardinal's comments suggest race has begun
The successor to Pope Benedict XVI may well be a non-European cardinal, a senior Curia cardinal has suggested – an indication that the canvassing has well and truly begun.
The idea is certainly not new to church commentators but it assumes another dimension when stated by a current Curia cardinal.
In an interview in yesterday’s Rome newspaper, La Repubblica, Portuguese cardinal José Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, said: “A vast and authoritative range of candidates, who reflect the truly universal and not just European nature of the church, will present themselves at the conclave [papal election].
“Therefore, the big surprise may come from faraway places such as Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
Asked for a prediction, he added: “The next conclave is open to just about any surprise because this is a universal church and . . . in the end I wouldn’t be surprised if the chosen one ended up being a young cardinal, like the Filipino Luis Antonio Tagle, or it could be a figure like [Italian cardinal] Gianfranco Ravasi.”
Both Cardinal Tagle (55) and Cardinal Ravasi (70), president of the Pontifical Council of Culture, have featured prominently on the shortlists that mushroomed last week.
Cardinal Tagle is seen by supporters as a charismatic figure who has emphasised the church’s social teachings.
Appointed only last autumn by Pope Benedict, he made a favourable impression at the Symposium For Healing and Renewal held in Rome in February 2012.
Then, he said that in the Philippines he faced problems of clerical sex abuse, not in relation to paedophile incidents, but rather concerning priests who kept mistresses. At the Synod of Bishops in Rome last autumn, he called for a “humbler, simpler church with a greater capacity for silence”.
Cardinal Ravasi has long been one of the leading Italian candidates for pope. A sophisticated intellectual well known for his penchant for citing literary references, this week he is leading the Vatican’s Lenten spiritual exercises. This means he gives three talks daily to the Vatican Curia, including Pope Benedict, for all of this week.
Other pre-conclave news concerns two American cardinals, the Archbishop of New York Tim Dolan and the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony.
The former suggested in an interview that only people who smoked a “lot of pot” could consider him a papal candidate while the latter remains the object of a campaign by some US Catholics calling for him not to attend the conclave because of his handing of clerical sex abuse cases in his archdiocese.