Now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, the speculation about his successor is already heating up. What follows is a short list of those who have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Two candidates from Italy are prominently mentioned, because Italians are abundant in the College of Cardinals: Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s culture office. Scola’s Milan archdiocese is considered the most important in Italy, and he is known as a serious intellectual. Ravasi is also an intellectual; he is a scholar of Hegel and Nietzsche and his “Courtyard of the Gentiles” project, which engages in dialogue with artists, scientists, and even atheists, has gained acclaim. It doesn’t hurt his cause that Benedict chose him to lead the Vatican’s spiritual exercises during Lent.
Looking outside Italy, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa noted, “I think we would have a better chance of getting someone outside of the Northern hemisphere this time, because there are some really promising cardinals from other parts of the world.”
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who is only 56 and may be considered too young, Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, the 63-year-old archbishop of Sao Paulo, and Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, who spoke for Pope John Paul II when Parkinson’s disease left him silent, are all candidates.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, who would be the first black Pope, has been mentioned, too, although he has made statements that veered away from orthodoxy.
From North America, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Canadian Cardinal Marc Oeullet are the leading candidates. Oeullet has headed the Vatican’s office for bishops.
If the Catholic Church looks outside of Europe for a successor, it would have demographic support. In 1900, two-thirds of Catholics lived in Europe, but today, two-thirds live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.