- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

RENATE, Italy Catholic insiders in Rome and Milan say Pope John Paul II, well aware of his failing health, has begun taking concrete steps to ensure a smooth succession by grooming the newly appointed archbishop of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi, to succeed him.
"His Holiness, knowing that his health will continue to get worse but to avoid a period of uncertainty and possible division following his death, has given a clear message that he wants Tettamanzi to succeed him," said a monsignor closely linked with the Roman Curia.
The monsignor and other church officials, who wished to not be identified discussing a papal succession, say the pope's decision last month to name Archbishop Tettamanzi, the 68-year-old cardinal of Genoa, to replace the retiring cardinal of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini, was an unmistakable way of indicating his preference.
Cardinal Martini is preparing to move to Jerusalem for religious study and meditation after he officially retires at the end of next month.
"Only once in the last hundred years has an Italian cardinal been transferred from one city to another, and the transfer of a cardinal to Milan, the second most important diocese, after Rome, puts Tettamanzi on the direct path to succeed the pope," said a senior church source close to Cardinal Martini.
Past attempts by the media to forecast who will be chosen as pope have almost invariably proved wrong. Even so, the Catholic press in Italy is comparing Archbishop Tettamanzi to Pope John XXIII, who is remembered in Italy as the "good pope."
Reports also have compared him to Cardinal Carlo Borromeo who is beloved by Milanese for not fleeing the city during the plague and underlining his close, personal relationship with John Paul II.
Nicknamed the "smiling pastor," Archbishop Tettamanzi is universally adored as a "man of the people" in his hometown of Renate, in the now prosperous Brianza area just north of Milan.
"Dionigi was never a kid and was really born a priest. Even when we were small children, Dionigi would avoid rough games and would instead say Mass," said one of Archbishop Tettamanzi's childhood friends, Renato Fumagalli.
A biography published by Renate's city council said Archbishop Tettamanzi declared his desire to become a priest when still in kindergarten and at age 11 left Renate to enter a seminary at nearby Seveso.
"Dionigi, from when I can remember, always wanted to be a priest, and our family, which was of very modest means, sacrificed to pay his tuition," said Archbishop Tettamanzi's 63-year-old brother, Antonio.
Don Emilio, a 26-year-old priest at Renate's parish, said Archbishop Tettamanzi's greatest gift is one of "dialogue, the ability to swim various streams or currents and craft a unified river at the end."
Although the Italian and foreign press give weight to speculation that the pope's successor could come from Latin America or Africa, Vatican and Northern Italian Catholic insiders say it would be nearly impossible for a non-Italian to succeed John Paul II.
"People tend to forget that Wojtyla was the first foreign pope to be elected in some 400 years and that there were special circumstances at the time, such as the Cold War," a former high-level Western diplomat said.
The diplomat, who was present in Rome during the conclave that elected John Paul, insisted the Pole never would have been chosen without the behind-the-scenes machinations of Jimmy Carter's Polish-born national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

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