- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

VATICAN CITY — In Colombia's coffee country, people talk about Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as a young priest walking the meanest of streets at night, carrying hot coffee and bread for the beggars and mentally ill who slept on the sidewalks.
In Nigeria, Cardinal Francis Arinze is remembered for turning mission schools into shelters for starving refugees.
And in Vietnam, Cardinal Francois Nguyen Van Thuan is recalled for his courage during nine years of solitary confinement, clinging to his faith and fashioning a Bible out of scraps of paper.
Any of them could be the next pope.
The maneuvering is in full if silent swing during what Pope John Paul II, now 81, calls the "twilight years" of his papacy.
The election of the Polish pope 23 years ago broke a 455-year-long Italian monopoly, and the field is wide open for another surprise — a Third World pope.
The chances have improved since Feb. 21, when John Paul elevated 44 new members to the College of Cardinals, the exclusive club of men eligible to elect a pope from among their ranks.
Italians still are the single largest contingent, but no cardinal has emerged as a candidate to rally around. Latin Americans are the largest geographic bloc after the Europeans, and they minister to half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics. In Africa and Asia, the church is directing missionary activities to expand its numbers.
In an interview on German radio last year, Bishop (now Cardinal) Karl Lehmann said outright that those looking for John Paul's successor were eyeing prelates from Latin America.
The most closely watched are six cardinals from different countries and different cultures who share certain attributes: All are multilingual men of the world, all hold high-profile posts at home or at the Vatican, and all are from the Third World.
They are:

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera
The primate of Mexico is seen by his supporters as the leading contender among Latin American cardinals.
Cardinal Rivera, 59, is stocky and athletic, with the flat nose and features typical of his Tepehuene Indian ancestors in his native Durango state in the northwest.
He earned a reputation as a strict conservative at a time when liberation theology and other leftist doctrines were in vogue, but is outspoken in accusing Mexico's elite of corruption, election fraud and failing the nation's poor.
Family lore has it that as a toddler in his mountain village of La Purissima he was fascinated by the ringing of church bells and announced that he when he grew up he wanted to be a "big priest" so he could ring the bells himself.
He entered the seminary in Durango at age 13. He went to Rome to study theology in 1962, and Pope Paul VI ordained him a priest four years later.

Cardinal Francis Arinze
Nigerians still recall Cardinal Arinze's work during the Biafra civil war in the late 1960s and early '70s, when missionary schools in the young archbishop's domain were transformed overnight into camps filled with starving refugees. Many European missionaries had been expelled, leaving the archbishop with a skeleton staff of young priests and nuns.
"How he kept the church going during that period, only he and God know," said Monsignor Hypolitus, a priest in Nnewi. "It is not easy to look after your flock when they are starving."
Now 68, Cardinal Arinze was born in the eastern Nigerian town of Eziowelle. His older brother, Peter, remembers him as an academically gifted, unusually quiet youth whose entry into the seminary at age 15 surprised his family. At the time, he said, the parents were both believers in the animism of the Ibo culture, and converted to Catholicism only decades later.
Cardinal Arinze has worked for more than 20 years at the Vatican, where he has been a key figure in arranging interfaith dialogue among Catholics, Muslims and Hindus.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga
As a boy, he dreamed of playing the saxophone in a dance band or becoming a pilot. He learned English to study aviation by mail.
Instead, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga at age 58 is the first cardinal in history from Honduras.
Multilingual, with degrees in philosophy and theology and a diploma in clinical psychology, he is a rising star of the church in Latin America.
As president of the Latin American bishops conference in the late 1990s, he used the forum to denounce the region's foreign-debt burden.
He tends to stress the pope's distrust of free-market policies. "The colonialism of the past was based on warships and the new colonialism on money," he has said.
Like other cardinals, he has repeatedly spoken out against abortion and destruction of embryos in scientific work, but is considered more open-minded than other Latin Americans elevated by John Paul.

Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino
In a low-key ceremony in June, the archbishop of Havana opened the doors of the first parish church built in communist Cuba in more than four decades.
But as with other small advances the Cuban church has made under Cardinal Ortega's leadership, the event went largely unnoticed by the island's 11 million people and the outside world.
Cardinal Ortega, 64, who welcomed John Paul in 1998 on the first papal visit to the Caribbean island, has been trying to regain ground the church lost after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power 42 years ago.
Honoring Cardinal Ortega during a visit to Boston in 1997, Cardinal Bernard Law described the Cuban as "a sign of hope to a world that so desperately needs those signs."
Just as Cardinal Ortega, the son of a sugar worker and housewife, began his priestly vocation, the new communist government was weakening an already feeble Cuban church. It closed parochial schools and expelled foreign priests. Young Father Ortega spent a year in a labor camp.
The multitalented future cardinal climbed slowly up the church ladder. An accomplished pianist, he composed music for Mass.
The future Cardinal Ortega was consecrated as bishop of the diocese in western Pinar del Rio province in January 1979 and was named archbishop of Havana in November 1981.
Although Cardinal Ortega has made no headway in the push to reopen Catholic schools, he has gained some access to Cuba's mass media, receiving occasional approval to broadcast on state radio. And after the pope's visit, Christmas was made an official holiday again.

Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
The 73-year-old Vatican official is an inspirational figure for Vietnamese Catholics, the largest Catholic community in Asia after the Philippines.
Cardinal Thuan was appointed deputy archbishop of Saigon just days before the South Vietnamese capital fell to the communist North in April 1975.
Targeted for his faith as well as his family connections his uncle was Ngo Dinh Diem, the assassinated South Vietnamese president Cardinal Thuan spent 13 years in a notorious "re-education" camp nine of them in solitary confinement.
But he clung to his faith, fashioning a tiny Bible out of scraps of paper. Sympathetic guards smuggled in a piece of wood and some wire, from which he crafted a tiny crucifix. He still keeps it with him today.
In his book "The Way of Hope Thoughts of Light from a Prison Cell," Cardinal Thuan wrote:
"In our country there is a saying: 'A day in prison is worth a thousand autumns of freedom.' I myself experienced this. While in prison, everyone waits for freedom, every day, every minute. We must live each day, each minute of our life as though it is the last."
Forced into exile in 1991, he now lives in Rome and heads a Vatican commission for social, economic and human rights.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos
In Pereira, a town in the heart of Colombia's coffee-growing region, a young priest walked the streets at night, feeding the destitute and mentally ill.
"We would find him in the worst places of Pereira. He was never afraid of anyone, of anything," recalled Monsignor Francisco Arias.
When he became a bishop, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos took on the police, accusing them of killing prostitutes, street children and beggars.
"After he denounced them in his sermon, the killings stopped and the director of police in Pereira left," Monsignor Arias said.
Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos also had an encounter with Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin drug cartel, who waged a bloody war against the state.
The prelate, who is said to have dressed as a milkman for the meeting, wanted Escobar to surrender. Escobar sent a proposal through Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos to the government, which it turned down. The drug lord was killed by police in 1993.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author, has written of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos that he "understood his priesthood as a militia of social justice."
The 72-year-old cardinal heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, in charge of priests worldwide.


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