Wednesday, October 22, 2003

# Posted 7:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

COME ON, PLACE YOUR BETS: Remind me to write a post sometime soon criticizing the "Pope Death Watch."

In the interim, though - and, after all, since I'm not quite climbed up on my high horse just yet - this Stratfor analysis of the dynamics likely to inform the next papal election, whenever it will be, is interesting.
John Paul II reportedly left written instructions several years ago on what should be done if and when his disease [i.e., Parkinson's] left him bedridden and silent for the rest of his life. Of course, Vatican officials never would confirm the existence of such instructions. However, if he becomes immobile, a successor likely will have to be chosen quickly.

At least 20 cardinals are viewed as potential "papabili," or candidates for the papacy -- including several Europeans, at least one African and three or four Latin Americans.

Some Vatican-watchers have focused on the possibility that 71-year-old Cardinal Francis Azinze of Nigeria could be among the top five likely candidates. Azinze was born into an Ibo family and decided to convert to Catholicism in his early teens. Reportedly he is widely liked within the Vatican hierarchy. He also believes that Muslims, Buddhists and Jews can go to heaven, setting him apart from hardcore Catholic conservatives such as Ratzinger.

Supporters of Azinze's papal qualifications within the Vatican point to several factors in his favor. For example, while Catholicism appears to be in decline in Europe and North America, it is growing very rapidly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Also, about half of the current members of the College of Cardinals come from countries outside North America or Europe. Moreover, there is a group within the Vatican that believes that electing a black pope would highlight the church's concern for rejecting globalization and alleviating the suffering of the poor.

Italian papal candidates include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, age 69, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, also 69, who serves in the Vatican as prefect of congregation for bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin. Some Vatican watchers also tout Vienna's 58-year-old Cardinal Christoph Schonborn -- although many cardinal electors might believe he is too young. Given that John Paul II was elected at 58 and has served for 25 years thus far, many cardinal electors might be reluctant to select a pope who could serve that long.

Other potential candidates include Latin American cardinals Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Claudio Hummes of Sao Paulo and Jaime Lucas Ortega of Havana.
Place your bets. (Note: Despite the previous sentence, OxBlog does not condone betting, as it detracts from more important, meaninful, life pursuits, such as whisky and tobacco.) Paddy Power is placing best odds on Cardinals Tettamanzi, Ortega, Arinze, and Battista Re. (That's two Italians, a Nigerian, and a Latin, for those of you keeping score at home.)

UPDATE: Kieran at Crooked Timber is rooting for Nigerian Cardinal Arinze. This is principally because of the expanded Nigerian spam possibilities.
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