Factbox: Among "papabili", open field for next pope

Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:41am EDT
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Cardinals Angelo Scola of Milan and Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo are the two most often mentioned frontrunners in the conclave to elect the next Roman Catholic pope which opens on Tuesday.

But about a dozen names of "papabili" (possible popes) are circulating among Vatican watchers in Rome. And the 115 cardinal electors can turn to other candidates among themselves if the initial favorites fail to build momentum towards the necessary two-thirds majority, or 77 votes.

Identifying trends is difficult because there are no declared candidates and the electors are sworn to secrecy about their preparations for the conclave and what happens inside the Sistine Chapel while they vote.

A strong candidate could win a large minority of votes in the first voting round on Tuesday afternoon. But if he fails to build on it in subsequent voting rounds - two each in morning and afternoon sessions - the cardinals could look elsewhere for a successor to Benedict XVI, who resigned unexpectedly.

Here are the dozen most frequently mentioned names, with their nationalities, ages and brief facts on their careers:


- Angelo Scola (Italy, 71) is archbishop of Milan, often a springboard to the papacy, and the leading Italian candidate. An expert on moral theology, Pope Benedict moved him there from Venice - another papal launching pad - in 2011 in what some saw as a sign of approval. Scola was long close to the conservative Italian Catholic group Communion and Liberation, which Benedict also favored, but he has kept his distance in recent years. He is familiar with Islam as head of a centre for Muslim-Christian understanding, with wide contacts abroad. His dense intellectual oratory could put off cardinals seeking a charismatic preacher.

- Odilo Scherer (Brazil, 63) is the leading candidate from Latin America, where 42 percent of the world's Catholics live. Archbishop of Sao Paulo, the biggest diocese in the country with more Catholics than any other, he is seen as conservative there but would rank as a moderate elsewhere. His German family roots and stint working in the Vatican administration, the Curia, give him important links to Europe, the largest voting bloc. Italian media say he enjoys support among Curia cardinals opposed to Scola. He is known for a sense of humor and tweets regularly. The rapid growth of Protestant churches in Brazil that are wooing away Catholics could count against him.

- Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68) is the Vatican's top staff director, as head of the Congregation for Bishops. An academic theologian in the mould of Benedict, he once said becoming pope "would be a nightmare". Well-connected within the Curia, he also has ties to Latin America from teaching there and now heading a Vatican commission on the region. Factors against him include his rough time as archbishop of Quebec, where his conservative views clashed with the very secular society there and he left apologizing for hurt he had caused. His bland speaking style is another drawback.   Continued...

A nun prays while cardinals hold the mass "pro eligendo pontifice" at Saint Peter Basilica before the Conclave at the Vatican March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard