The first major choice facing the cardinals in the next conclave could boil down to this: An Italian or a Latin American?
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Speaking with members of the College of Cardinals, there seem two grand
hypotheses these days for the next papal election: an Italian and a candidate
from the Third World. The first holds that, all things being equal, the next
pope should be one of the 21 Italian cardinals under 80; the other that that the
next pope should emerge from among the 45 cardinals under 80 from the developing
world (including 24 Latin Americans).
incident in Rome last week illustrates part of the logic for the Italian
Paul II met in the Vatican with a delegation from a few of the Roman parishes he
has not yet visited during his more than 25 years as Bishop of Rome. One of the
pastors jokingly complained that the pope speaks all manner of foreign languages
when he travels abroad, yet his own flock in Rome had never heard him speak in
their local dialect of Romanesco. John Paul promptly fired off a few phrases in
Romanesco, including damose da fa (“let’s get down to business”) and
semo Romani “we’re Romans”), before acknowledging that he has never really
learned to speak the local tongue.
that mean I’m not a good bishop of Rome?” he asked.
question was meant in good humor, especially since it was pronounced by the
Polish pope in flawless Italian, but it illustrates part of the pastoral logic
that still leads many cardinals to think of an Italian when it comes time to
choose a pope. The successor of Peter is, first of all, shepherd of the
Christians in Rome, and hence, as one cardinal put it to me recently, “I think
you first of all have to look around for an Italian who could do the job.”
other argument in favor of the Italian hypothesis has to do with what some see
as the central weakness of the Wojtyla pontificate. While this has been a
magnificent pontificate ad extra, so this argument runs — the
encyclicals, the trips, the diplomacy, the outreach to other Christians and
other religions — it has not been as successful ad intra. Internal
governance of the church, some cardinals believe, has suffered. Wojtyla has
largely left the curia to run itself, they argue, with all the problems of
bureaucratic thinking and business-as-usual such a policy creates. (Some point
to the American sex abuse crisis as a case in point).
Conservatives say this neglect has allowed forms of rot such as doctrinal
dissent and personal immorality to go unchallenged. Liberals complain that it
has led to micro-management and pastoral inflexibility. Either way, both
factions believe the next pope should be more attentive to issues inside his own
emphasis on governance leads some cardinals by a short route to the Italian
hypothesis, since the Italians are assumed to have a natural genius for running
the church. (“It’s not called the Roman Catholic church for nothing,” as
more than one cardinal has ruefully observed).
main competitor to the Italian theory is the Third World hypothesis, which holds
that the next pope should come from the developing world, for at least three
reasons. First, the center of energy in global Christianity is increasingly in
the South, and the election of a pope from the developing world would thus be a
forward-looking gesture. Second, Christianity in the developing world is facing
serious competition; in Latin America it comes primarily from Protestant
evangelicals, in Africa and Asia from Islam. A pope from the South would hence
be a “shot in the arm.”
Finally, just as the election of a pope from behind the Iron Curtain challenged
the geo-political status quo of 1978, so the election of a pope from the
developing world would be a dramatic challenge to the injustices of
globalization. If the crucified Christ of 1978 could be found in the catacombs
of Eastern Europe, today he’s in the refugee camps and vast urban slums of the
most probable version of the Third World hypothesis seems a Latin American,
because there are more credible Latin American candidates than Africans or
Asians. A Latin American pope’s passion is unlikely to be internal
ecclesiastical governance so much as the broader global push for social justice.
the first major choice facing the cardinals in the next conclave could boil down
to this: an Italian or a Latin American? Implied in that contrast, for many
cardinals, is an option for focus ad intra (the Italian) or ad extra
(the Latin American).
either scenario, the bias is against a North American or a Northern European.
Electing a pope, however, is a bit like buying a house; one starts with a dream,
but it always comes down to what’s on the market. From what I hear, I don’t
believe a North American or Northern European candidate who brings other
qualities the cardinals are looking for — someone like Cardinal Christoph
Schönborn of Vienna, for example, or Godfried Danneels of Belgium — will be
excluded because of nationality. It simply means their candidacies will rise or
fall on their own merits, as opposed to getting a boost from geography.
* * *
the moment, let’s play out the Italian hypothesis. Herewith a Top Five list of
Italian candidates, in order of electability based on my conversations with
If an Italian is to be elected, Tettamanzi, the successor of the legendary
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in Milan, seems the most likely candidate. He has a
roly-poly, affable bearing reminiscent of John XXIII. (In a phrase that will
surely pass into legend if Tettamanzi is elected pope, Cardinal Keith O’Brien of
Edinburgh, Scotland, referred to him at the 1999 European synod as “that wee fat
Tettamanzi is moderate-to-conservative on theological issues. A moral
theologian, he is rumored to have worked on John Paul’s encyclical Evangelium
Vitae. He is close to the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. In
1998, on the group’s 70th anniversary, Tettamanzi published an article praising
founder José Maria Escrivá de Balaguer as comparable to Sts. Benedict and
Francis of Assisi in terms of launching new movements within the church.
recent months, Tettamanzi has burnished his credentials with traditionalists by
writing letters in support of indulgences and church teaching on the devil. At
the same time, he added luster to his standing with social justice advocates by
his performance during the G-8 Summit in Genoa in July 2001. He embraced much of
the anti-globalization protest, delivering a rousing address at a meeting of
thousands of young Catholics in which he insisted that “a single African child
sick with AIDS counts more than the entire universe.” He rejected criticism from
conservative Catholics who demanded that church members steer clear of the
“People of Seattle.” Tettamanzi said that although Christians must reject
violence, there is nevertheless much to applaud in the values upheld by the
Tettamanzi is perhaps the only papabile to have corporate sponsorship; in
2000, Microsoft put out his volume on bioethics on-line and on CD. One drawback
is that Tettamanzi is not an especially gifted linguist and has not traveled a
great deal outside Italy.
Antonelli is regarded as a potential John Paul I-style pope, an outsider seen
more as a pastor than a politician or diplomat, and a man who knows how to
smile. His great strength is also a serious weakness, however, as some observers
believe Antonelli lacks the depth and gravitas to be pope.
Earlier in his career,
Antonelli served as bishop of Gubbio, the Italian region that includes Assisi,
and then as archbishop of Perugia. The latter was the diocese from which the
erudite Leo XIII was elected pope, and like Leo, Antonelli wrote a well-regarded
series of pastoral letters in Perugia. He also served as secretary of the
Italian bishops’ conference. He is regarded as a talented pastor who enjoys good
relations with his people, though he has struggled in the Italian bishops’
conference and in relations with the Roman curia.
Antonelli is especially
committed on issues of peace and justice. While he is orthodox on doctrinal
issues, he is also moderate in application. He defended divorced Italian
politicians, for example, saying the church’s interest with respect to public
figures was more their policy stands than their personal behavior. Antonelli has
described himself as a “son of the council,” and for much of his priestly and
episcopal career has sought to live in community with other priests rather than
in isolation. He has tried to favor shared decision-making and lay
participation. He is a great fan of the arts, and taught art for several years
in Italian public schools.
A Salesian, Bertone is a characteristic son of St. John Bosco — smiling,
youth-oriented, and very faithful on doctrinal questions. He has recently made a
name for himself in Genoa through some unconventional pastoral moves, such as
“getting down” on the dance floor at a disco with Catholic youth and offering
color commentary on TV during a soccer match for his beloved Juventus squad.
to being named archbishop of Genoa, he served from 1995 to 2002 as the secretary
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, making him Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger’s right-hand man. Bertone was thus at the heart of some of the most
delicate issues in the life of the Church for seven years, including the Vatican
response to the American sex abuse crisis in 2002, and the Vatican’s unveiling
of the “Third Secret of Fatima” in 2000. Bertone also coordinated the Vatican
response to the soap opera in 2001 surrounding Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel
Milingo, and his on-again, off-again marriage to a Korean disciple of the Rev.
Sun Myung Moon.
Bertone is a canon lawyer by training, and played a key role in the 1983
revision of the Code of Canon Law. He also led the team that translated
the code into Italian from Latin. Bertone is seen as a staunch conservative on
doctrinal issues, and a man with a very positive and optimistic spirit. He’s
also seen as someone with a firm administrative hand, hence he appeals to
supporters of the “Italian hypothesis.” For those electors who otherwise would
gravitate to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, his former deputy could be a very
Scola is the first adherent of the Comunione e Liberazione movement to
become a cardinal. He too is a member of the Communio school, associated
in the United States with intellectuals such as David Schindler of the John Paul
II Institute in Washington. His particular interest is bioethics and the
“culture of life,” so one could expect a Scola papacy to be energetic in defense
of traditional church teaching on these issues.
is a genuine thinker, with an extensive record of publications on theological
anthropology and ethics. He is fluent in several languages, including English,
the result of his having studied at the Catholic University of America in
Washington, D.C. Former rector of the Lateran University, Scola is considered
conservative, a man with an open and curious mind. He is also seen as
politically savvy and a very capable administrator.
is not afraid of the press. During the most recent consistory in October 2003,
he jokingly chided Cardinal Christoph Schonbörn of Vienna for ducking an
interview request from CNN, saying, “We have to be available when people want us
to talk to them.”
I had dinner recently with
a well-known American prelate who bluntly predicted to a group around the table:
“The next pope will be Angelo Scola.”
in that CNN interview to identify the main challenge facing the church, Scola
said the principal one was flagged by Pope Paul VI: the “fracture” between the
church and contemporary culture. “It's very difficult to determine whether this
is the fault of the world that has abandoned the church, or the church that does
not know how to relate to the world,” Scola said.
personal level, Scola is gracious, polished and approachable. Venice produced
three 20th century popes — Pius X, John XXIII, and John Paul I — so many eyes
will be on Scola in the next conclave.
Re, Giovanni Battista (Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, 69)
Re served for 11 years as sostituto, the official in the Secretariat of
State responsible for the day-to-day management of church affairs. The job has
often been a springboard to higher office; Giovanni Battista Montini, for
example, was the sostituto under Pius XII before becoming Paul VI.
Re has not shrunk from the
role of curial enforcer; when an Italian priest took part in a pro-gay rally in
Rome in July 2000, Re phoned his bishop to demand disciplinary action. He also
refused permission for Bishop M.P.M. Muskens of Holland to hold a diocesan
synod, fearing that the liberal prelate might let things get out of hand. Yet Re
is generally considered a moderate, and has given signals of support for
decentralization. When Scotland’s late Cardinal Thomas Winning needed support in
2001 for an appeal against the Congregation for Worship and its attempts to take
control away from bishops’ conferences on liturgical issues, he got a
sympathetic ear from Re.
a legendary hard worker, often returning calls from his office late on Sunday
nights, and has an encyclopedic grasp of the inner workings of the Vatican.
Diplomatic officials liked working with Re at the Secretariat of State; “When he
said yes, it stuck,” one told me in 2000. Re is personal and approachable in a
way few curial figures are, especially at his altitude. He has a quick smile and
is good at small talk at embassy receptions.
observers have long felt, however, that Re’s lack of pastoral experience may
disqualify him as a potential pope, perhaps making it more likely that his
destiny is to be Secretary of State.
* * *
let’s take a look at the Top Five candidates from the developing world.
Arinze, Francis (Nigeria, 71)
The prospect of a “black pope” has long captivated the imagination of the
world’s media, helping to make Arinze a much-discussed possibility. He grew up a
member of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria, and converted to Catholicism at age nine.
he still be papabile without this headline-making factor? Maybe.
Perhaps the biggest strike against him is that he has spent the last 20 years in
Rome working in the Curia, first as the president of the Pontifical Council for
Interreligious Dialogue, now as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Hence to the outside world he may be an African, but to many cardinals he’s a
Arinze is a charming figure, with a broad smile and an acute sense of humor. He
is seen as deeply spiritual, sincere, honest, and a man capable of listening to
others despite his own strong views. His theological positions range from
moderate to conservative, and, in the blunt speech that Africans prize, he pulls
few punches. In May 2003, for example, Arinze delivered the commencement address
at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His strong language shocked and
offended some listeners: “In many parts of the world, the family is under
siege,” Arinze said. “It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in
contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized
by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality,
sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.”
Critics say Arinze is neither a visionary nor an especially original thinker.
Those who know him, however, say he does have his own ideas, but they are
sometimes eclipsed by his loyalty to the current pope. Arinze engineered the
beatification of Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, a Nigerian Cistercian monk who
died in 1964 and in 1998 became the first West African candidate for sainthood
to reach the penultimate step. It was Tansi who baptized Arinze and encouraged
him to become a priest.
Bergoglio, Jorge Mario
A Jesuit and the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio is one of a handful of
cardinals whose education was not initially in philosophy or theology. He
actually trained as a chemist before deciding to become a priest. He was elected
the Jesuit provincial for Argentina in 1973 and held the position for many
years. He pursued theological studies in Germany, has published three books, and
serves as Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University in Argentina.
Bergoglio drew high marks when he replaced Cardinal Edward Egan of New York
during the October 2001 Synod of Bishops as general relator. On the other hand,
Bergoglio is a Jesuit, which creates certain reservations. Jesuits are not
supposed to receive ecclesiastical honors, and there is some resistance within
the community to the idea of a Jesuit pope.
Within the Jesuits, Bergoglio’s reputation is mixed. He was appointed provincial
in Buenos Aires in 1973, which means that he enjoyed the respect of his
brothers. On the other hand, Jesuit sources in Rome say he was a divisive
leader. At a time when many Latin American Jesuits were moving into the social
apostolate, he insisted on a more traditional, spiritual approach, demanding
that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving
into “base communities” and political activism. Eventually he stepped down as
superior in 1980.
Bergoglio is today close to the Comunione e Liberazione movement. Twice
he has presented Spanish editions of the books of the movement’s founder, Fr.
Luigi Giussani, at Argentina’s major annual book fair. If he were to be elected,
certainly Bergoglio’s simplicity and humility could strike the world. In
Argentina, for example, he takes public transportation rather than a
The Archbishop of Mumbai (Bombay), Dias rose up through the Vatican diplomatic
corps, with junior postings in Ghana, Togo and Benin, then nominations as the
papal nuncio to Korea and Albania. Dias also served in the Holy See’s embassies
in Scandinavia, Indonesia and Madagascar, and was subsequently posted to the
Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in the Vatican. He worked in the
Secretariat of State as the desk officer for several countries in Europe, Africa
and Asia, including China and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
is thus a cosmopolitan, speaking at least a little of 16 languages, and he knows
global politics as few cardinals do. He is also a rare theological conservative
among the Indian bishops, known for a more moderate stance.
October 2000 press conference sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ, Dias
dismissed the theology of religious pluralism associated with India, which
regards other religions as part of God’s plan for humanity, as largely a
concoction of avant garde theologians rather than something accepted by
average Mass-going Indian Catholics. (Some Indians question how well positioned
Dias is to make such a judgment, noting that he has spent most of his career
outside the country).
is also strong on moral questions. In a November 2003 Vatican address, he
praised a priest who counseled women who had abortions to give their unborn
children a names so they could anticipate “meeting their baby one day” in
heaven. He also referred to homosexuality as a disease of the soul, and said he
prayed for such people to be “cured of their unnatural tendencies.” Dias thus
blends fidelity to the church’s doctrinal tradition with the appeal of coming
from an Asian culture.
4. Hummes, Cláudio
A strong Latin American candidate, Hummes is a member of the Franciscan order,
like the legendary Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns whom he replaced in Sao Paolo.
In a typical Franciscan touch, his episcopal motto is “We Are All Brothers”.
Arns, Hummes was born in southern Brazil from German parents. As a young bishop,
he had a reputation as a progressive, opposing Brazil’s military regime and
backing workers strikes. Hummes also allowed famous Brazilian leftist Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva, now the country’s president, to make political speeches
John Paul II, Hummes moved somewhat to the right, adopting a more traditional
theological stance and distancing himself from political action. In July 2000,
when a Brazilian priest suggested that condoms could be justified to fight AIDS,
Hummes threatened disciplinary action.
Hummes is well-respected in Rome, and was invited to preach the 2002 Lenten
Retreat for the papal household. Yet he defends the Movimento dos Sem Terra
(landless movement), arguing that people should be encouraged to organize
themselves to defend their rights. He reminds government leaders that the church
defends private property, but “with social responsibility.” Hummes thus could
strike some electors as the right mix between doctrinal caution and social
Betto, the famous Brazilian Dominican and liberation theologian, told NCR
in 2002 that Hummes would be a “great pope.” His lone flaw, according to Betto:
“He works too much.”
Rodriguez Maradiaga, Oscar Andrés
Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is widely seen as a
rising star in the Latin American church. He served as president of CELAM, the
federation of Latin American bishops’ conferences, until 1999. A Salesian, he
speaks near-perfect Italian and English (along with passable French, Portuguese,
German, Latin, and Greek), plays the piano, and has taken pilot training.
Rodriguez is ferocious on social justice issues. He was part of a small group
that met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Cologne to hand over the Jubilee
2000 petition for debt relief. “Neo-liberal capitalism carries injustice and
inequality in its genetic code,” he said in 1995. Some say his rhetoric,
however, is not matched by a command of policy details. His theological training
came in the post-Vatican II period.
studied at the Alfonsian Academy in Rome where he took classes from the
legendary liberal moral theologian Bernard Häring, whom Rodriguez calls an
“idol.” He has a reputation for being unusually open on ecumenical questions for
a Latin American bishop, many of whom have little experience in religiously
pluralistic settings. Early in his episcopal career he took a positive view of
other church groups working in his diocese.
Rodriguez has a warm smile and a ready sense of humor. On the other hand, some
local observers say Rodriguez is better known on the embassy reception circuit
than among the campesinos; one called him a “1930’s cardinal” in that
earned a degree of notoriety in the United States in 2002 by comparing media
criticism of the Catholic church in light of the sex abuse scandals to
persecutions under the Roman emperors Nero and Diocletian, as well as Hitler and
Stalin. He later said in an interview with NCR that his intent was to
draw attention to the suffering of peoples in the Third World, suggesting that
the massive media attention to the scandals in the American press was
disproportionate. While his comments angered some Americans, they may have
helped reassure more conservative members of the College of Cardinals that
Rodriguez Maradiaga can be relied upon to defend the church when it’s under
* * *
There’s no guarantee that the next pope will be one of these 10 men. For one
thing, John Paul’s health today seems basically stable, and it may be that
someone like Arinze, who’s 71 today, will be considered too old by the time the
election actually rolls around. Yet it seems a safe bet that these 10
papabili, or potential popes, will at least get serious attention when the
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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