- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

The top candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II are cardinals from South America, Africa and Europe, who will be assessed on theological wisdom, personal charisma and ability to instill a vision in the hearts of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

These princes of the church are not permitted to campaign for the job, however.

This tradition dates to the sixth century, when Pope Felix IV named his archdeacon, Boniface, as successor. The Roman Senate objected and enacted a law forever forbidding discussion of a successor while the reigning pontiff yet lived.

“There are 117 people in the world who by law aren’t allowed to speculate, and I am one of them,” Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of the Washington Archdiocese said Friday at a press conference held on the steps of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest as John Paul’s condition worsened. “We’ll carefully try to find someone to take the place of this great pope.”

Cardinal McCarrick and other American Catholic leaders are not on the shortlist of candidates. However, the 11 cardinals representing the 67 million Roman Catholics in this country are expected to play a crucial role. They lead the world’s third-largest Catholic population, after Brazil and Mexico.

It is not forbidden for cardinals to make themselves known to fellow electors and engage in private discussions.

After 26 years of a Polish pope, the Italians are known to want one of their own to be elected. Often mentioned is Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 70, archbishop of Milan.

European candidates include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 71, and Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, 60. The latter, if elected, could have a pontificate as long as John Paul’s quarter-century tenure.

Three Latin cardinals — Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 68, of Argentina; Claudio Hummes, 70, of Brazil; and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 62, of Honduras — all are considered likely candidates.

“My gut is that it will be a Latin American,” said Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo in Ohio. “However, Maradiaga is a little on the young side. They generally don’t want to elect another pope who will reign for 25 years.”

If elected, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, would become the first black pope. As the candidate who has traveled across America the most, he is known for his dealings with Muslims, his desire for liturgical reform and his forthrightness on key Catholic doctrines.

Last year at a Vatican function, Cardinal Arinze, who is fluent in English, delivered a broadside against pro-choice politicians receiving Communion, a message that coincided with the American election cycle. In May 2003, he caused an uproar at Georgetown University when he criticized homosexuals during a commencement address.

“It also helps if the other cardinals have learned about you, which is why it helps to have traveled about a bit, as Arinze has,” Mr. Gaillardetz said. “But there’s also an argument that as much as everyone has admired this pope, there’s been criticisms about him not being sufficiently concerned with inside the Vatican, that is, the Curia.

“Things have taken place there that one with a better grasp of the place would not have allowed to happen. That argues for an Italian pope, as the Curia is a uniquely Italian system and an Italian would ride herd on them.”

Some activists within the Catholic Church hope for a radically different choice, said Angela Bonavoglia, author of “Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church.”

“I’ve heard Cardinal [Joseph] Ratzinger [of Germany] mentioned as an interim replacement, which would be troubling,” Miss Bonavoglia said. “He’s quite conservative. We really need to open the church more, not close it on inclusive language, married priests, sexuality issues and women’s ordination, which is a critical issue. I’d like someone who will make room for progressive Catholics, as well as moderates and conservatives.”

The ritual of choosing a new pope does not begin until the papal funeral ends. Canon law mandates that the funeral take place four to six days after the pope dies.

After the funeral, the world’s cardinals — 117 of whom are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote on John Paul’s successor — will meet daily. Fifteen days after the death, as also set by canon law, the cardinals begin their conclave. The word means “with a key” in Latin, as the cardinals used to be literally locked in until they came up with a successor.

No outside contact by telephone, cell phone, radio or television or Internet connection is allowed. No one is allowed to leave, except for a serious illness. The cardinals stay until they believe they have settled on the man to whom the Holy Spirit has guided them as the church’s next leader.

The cardinals will be housed in the Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican residence with 105 suites and 26 single rooms built in 1996 that is reputed to be far more comfortable than previous lodgings. Rooms will be assigned by lot.

“It’s not the Ritz,” Mr. Gaillardetz said. “In previous conclaves, the cardinals were sleeping on cots in little cells with a wash basin, literally with linen sheets separating them. None of those elections went more than three days.”

Voting is by ballot. Each time an election turns out inconclusive, the ballots are burned with a chemical that causes black smoke to rise from a chimney to the right of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The winning candidate must be named on at least two-thirds of the ballots, plus one. When the winning tally is announced, the elected cardinal is asked whether he accepts the nomination. Once he assents and gives his official new name, he is the pontiff.

The ballots then are burned without the chemical, causing the chimney smoke rising above the Sistine Chapel to be white.

The new pontiff is presented to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square with the announcement in Latin, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus papam.” This means: “I bring you a message of great joy. We have a pope.”

The latest successor to Peter, an original disciple of Jesus, then appears and gives his blessing.

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