Non-European 'may succeed' Benedict
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his Angelus Blessing from the window of his private studio overlooking St. Peter's Square. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images
For the first time, a senior Curia cardinal this morning suggested publicly that the successor to Pope Benedict may well be an African, Asian or Latin American cardinal.
In an interview in this morning's Rome daily, La Repubblica, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation For the Cause of Saints, confirmed the thinking of many Vatican insiders and commentators, saying: "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 to make a prediction about the forthcoming Conclave, 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 55-year-old Cardinal Tagle and 70-year-old Cardinal Ravasi, the current President of the Pontifical Council of Culture, have featured prominently on the "papabile" short lists that mushroomed last week.
Cardinal Tagle is seen by supporters as a charismatic figure who has emphasised the Church's social teachings while he made a favourable impression at the Symposium For Healing and Renewal held in Rome's Gregorian University last February.
On that occasion, he admitted frankly 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, it says much about him that 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.
Cardinal Martins, who turned 80 last January, does not have a vote in next month's conclave but he is a senior member of the Curia who, for a short period prior to the Conclave which elected Benedict eight years ago, was himself touted as a possible candidate for Pope.