Papabile: The men who might be Pope


Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 65 Archbishop of Genoa, Italian

Designated by Vatican insiders as the leading Italian candidate, Cardinal Tettamanzi appears to be viewed sympathetically by influential lay organisations such as Opus Dei and Communione e Liberazione as well as by Pope John Paul II. Non-Italian, non-Curia bishops seem less enthusiastic, judging from the reaction of one Bishop at the recent Synod for Europe who, when told that Tettamanzi would be the next Pope, replied, "Not, that fat wee fellow".

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 72 Secretary of State, Italian

The classic "safe hands" choice, Cardinal Sodano is widely seen as an extremely able diplomat and bureaucrat who is currently steering the Church through this "end of pontificate" phase in the role of Vatican Prime Minister. Strong reservations remain about his capacities as an inspirational evangelist.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 66 Archbishop of Brussels, Belgian

A middle-of-the-road choice who might find widespread support. Apparently out of the running for some while, his recent call at the Synod for Europe for a Catholicism that confronts modern man's ontological anxieties was well received.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, 67 President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Nigerian

Ever since the Vaticanologist, the late Peter Hebblethwaite, pointed to him as potentially "papabile" in an article in this paper six years ago, Cardinal Arinze's name has figured in speculation about the next Pope. That prominence, however, seems to owe more to the possibility of his being the first black Pope in history than to widespread support within the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Christophe Schonborn, 54 Archbishop of Vienna, Austrian

If the College of Cardinals were to look for a relatively young man, Cardinal Schonborn might be the choice. The possibility that he might last on the seat of Peter for up to 30 years if elected would seem to weigh against him rather more than the fact that he is a Dominican.

Cardinal Pierre Yet, 65 Archbishop of Bordeaux, French

A "new entry" and a Cardinal whose realistic, tough talking at the Synod for Europe about the gulf between the Church and contemporary society was also well received.

Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, 74 Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Brazilian

His nationality and his doctrinal orthodoxy have seen his name among the list of "papabile" for years now. Current ill-health may mitigate against him, however.

Cardinal Jan Schotte, 71 Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Belgian

A popular figure within the Curia, Cardinal Schotte is nothing if not a Vatican insider since he has been Synod Secretary General since 1985. He, too, could figure in the ranks of compromise choice, but as one whose work has made him friends throughout the universal church.

Cardinal Vinko Puljic, 54 Archbishop of Sarajevo, Bosnian

When appointed Cardinal in October 1994 at the height of the Bosnian war, he was a hugely symbolic choice as well as becoming the then youngest member of the College of Cardinals. His election as Pope would send a strong message about the Church's message of peace and reconciliation between bitter enemies. His relative youth may tell against him.