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John Allen dissects the two main schools of thought regarding the next conclave: Italian or Latin American.

Speaking with members of the College of Cardinals, there seem two grand hypotheses these days for the next papal election: an Italian and a candidate from the Third World. The first holds that, all things being equal, the next pope should be one of the 21 Italian cardinals under 80; the other that that the next pope should emerge from among the 45 cardinals under 80 from the developing world (including 24 Latin Americans).

An incident in Rome last week illustrates part of the logic for the Italian hypothesis.

John Paul II met in the Vatican with a delegation from a few of the Roman parishes he has not yet visited during his more than 25 years as Bishop of Rome. One of the pastors jokingly complained that the pope speaks all manner of foreign languages when he travels abroad, yet his own flock in Rome had never heard him speak in their local dialect of Romanesco. John Paul promptly fired off a few phrases in Romanesco, including damose da fa (“let’s get down to business”) and semo Romani “we’re Romans”), before acknowledging that he has never really learned to speak the local tongue.


“Does that mean I’m not a good bishop of Rome?” he asked.

The question was meant in good humor, especially since it was pronounced by the Polish pope in flawless Italian, but it illustrates part of the pastoral logic that still leads many cardinals to think of an Italian when it comes time to choose a pope. The successor of Peter is, first of all, shepherd of the Christians in Rome, and hence, as one cardinal put it to me recently, “I think you first of all have to look around for an Italian who could do the job.”

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posted March 5, 2004 at 2:36 pm

I still really don’t get why Card. Bergoglio (my bishop, unfortunately) is mentioned as a “papabile”.
Though personally humble and perhaps a good parish priest, as an Archbishop of Buenos Aires he has been terrible. Positively not a theologian nor a philosopher (but a skilled politician), he is well known for actively dodging hard issues (something which has angered pro-lifers in face of the federal and local government pushes in favor of the legalization of abortion), allowing open heterodoxy and his belligerant attitude towards more traditional Catholics (i.e. Latin is oficially discouraged in the Archdiocese, priests are punished for wearing cassocks, no masses are served in Latin in the whole Archdiocese and petitons for Tridentine masses have been flatly denied without explanation time and again which has played wonderfully in the hands of the SSPX, which is thriving here, having built recently a huge seminary in the outskirts of Buenos Aires). His priests are puzzled by his personality and some priest-friends of mine label him as unapproachable, cold and secretive. He has chosen even grayer prelates as auxiliaries, in a move everybody attributed to his dislike for competition…
Card. Bergoglio for Pope? Brrrr… heavens, no!

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David Kubiak

posted March 5, 2004 at 3:08 pm

It’s not exactly uplifting to see the entries handicapped on the basis of whether or not they are ‘strong on doctrine.’
The Holy Ghost has His work cut out for Him.

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posted March 6, 2004 at 12:57 am

The first Bishop of Rome was Jewish. Maybe the Church should look among the relatively small population of Hebrew Catholics for the next Pope. (I’m biased though, being that I’m a Hebrew Catholic).

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Conor Dugan

posted March 6, 2004 at 9:24 am

Any Pope close to Communion and Liberation would be great in my mind.

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Charles R. Williams

posted March 6, 2004 at 9:18 pm

Question: would a pope from Sicily be able (willing?) to speak the Roman dialect?

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Aharon ben Gilad

posted June 12, 2004 at 3:07 am

I think we will have a false Pope next. Many Hebrew Catholics believe that Cardinal Lustiger could be the next true Pope in fulfillment of prophesies that say that he will be French, Jewish and very old.

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