Francis Arinze (Nigeria, 72) (d.o.b. 11-1-32)
The prospect of a black pope has long captured the imagination of Vatican watchers and the international media. Arinze grew up a member of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria, and converted to Catholicism at age 9. He spent the last 20 years working in the Roman Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy, first as the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and now as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Arinze is a charming figure, with a broad smile and an acute sense of humor. He is seen as deeply spiritual, sincere, honest, and a man capable of listening to others despite his own strong views. His theological positions range from moderate to conservative, and, in the blunt speech that Africans prize, he pulls few punches. Arinze engineered the beatification of Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, a Nigerian Cistercian monk who died in 1964 and in 1998 became the first West African candidate for sainthood to reach the penultimate step. It was Tansi who baptized Arinze and encouraged him to become a priest.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina, 68) (d.o.b. 12/17/36)
A Jesuit and the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio is seen as a genuine intellectual. He pursued theological studies in Germany, has published three books, and serves as grand chancellor of the Catholic University in Argentina. He was a controversial local superior of the Jesuit order in the 1970s, insisting on more traditional spiritual devotions at a time when the Latin American Jesuits were moving strongly into social activism. He won wide respect during the Argentinean financial crisis in 2001-2002. Observers report that he did not speak out often in favor of good government, reform and unity, but when he did speak, he was widely influential. Bergoglio also drew high marks when he replaced Cardinal Edward Egan of New York during a 2001 Synod of Bishops as the pope's appointee to steer the process. If he were to be elected, Bergoglio's simplicity and humility could become a hallmark of his papacy. In Argentina, for example, he rides public transportation rather than a chauffer-driven car.

Godfried Danneels (Belgium, 71) (d.o.b. 6/4/33)
A former professor of liturgy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Danneels has a high reputation as both an intellectual and a pastor. Though he has a strong personal vision, he also has a reputation as someone who listens well and builds consensus. He speaks several languages, including Italian and English. At a 1999 Synod of Bishops, he turned a pessimistic tide that had dominated the early going by insisting there is much of value in contemporary Western culture. He said the Western mind chafes at authoritarianism, but still responds to beauty. One could expect reform from a Danneels papacy. He is open to appointing women, for example, to run curial agencies. "Why not?" he said in a 1999 interview. "In the congregation for laity, for example, it would only make sense." Yet Danneels is no doctrinal radical. In early 2000, he did not hesitate to suspend the Rev. Rudi Borremans, a Belgian priest who announced he was homosexual and then concelebrated a Mass in violation of Danneels' orders.

Ivan Dias (India, 68) (d.o.b. 4/14/36)
The archbishop of Mumbai (Bombay), Dias rose up through the Vatican diplomatic corps. He is thus a cosmopolitan, speaking at least a little of 16 languages, and he knows global politics as few cardinals do. He is also a rare theological conservative among the Indian bishops, known for a more moderate stance. At an October 2000 press conference sponsored by the conservative religious order Legionaries of Christ, Dias dismissed the theology of religious pluralism associated with India, which regards other religions as part of God's plan for humanity, as largely a concoction of avant garde theologians rather than something accepted by average Mass-going Indian Catholics. Dias is also outspoken on moral questions. In a November 2003 Vatican address, he referred to homosexuality as a disease of the soul, and said he prayed for such people to be "cured of their unnatural tendencies." Dias thus blends fidelity to the church's doctrinal tradition with the appeal of coming from an Asian culture.

Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa (Chile, 71) (d.o.b 9/5/33)
Errazuriz Ossa has a keen mind, having obtained a degree in mathematics at the Catholic University in Chile in the 1950s and then a doctorate in theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland in the early 1960s. He is a member of the German-born order of the Schonstatt Fathers. In 1974 he was elected the superior general of Schonstatt, and was re-elected in 1980 and 1986. He traveled widely around the world, gaining a sense of the reality of local Catholic life in a wide variety of contexts. He worked in the Vatican, in the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from 1990-1996. He blends strong pastoral experience with an insider's knowledge of the Roman Curia. Errazuriz Ossa is seen as a cautious conservative on most church issues. On May 16, 2003, he was elected president of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM) for the 2003-2007 term, suggesting he enjoys respect among a rather divided group of Latin American bishops.

Claudio Hummes (Brazil, 70) (d.o.b. 8-8-34)
A strong Latin American candidate, Hummes is a member of the Franciscan order, like the legendary Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns whom he replaced in Sao Paolo. Like Arns, Hummes was born in southern Brazil from German parents. As a young bishop, he had a reputation as a progressive, opposing Brazil's military regime and backing worker strikes. Hummes also allowed famous Brazilian leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now the country's president, to make political speeches during Masses. Under John Paul II, Hummes moved somewhat to the right, adopting a more traditional theological stance and distancing himself from political action. Hummes is well-respected in Rome, and was invited to preach the 2002 Lenten Retreat for the papal household. Yet he defends the Movimento dos Sem Terra (landless movement), arguing that people should be encouraged to organize themselves to defend their rights. Hummes thus could strike some electors as the right mix between doctrinal caution and social engagement.

Walter Kasper (Germany, 71) (d.o.b. 3/5/33)
Born in Germany in 1933, Kasper studied at Tubingen, the "big leagues" of the European theological universe. Kasper is thus one of the few prelates recognized outside the College of Cardinals as a serious theologian. He is presently the Vatican's top official on ecumenical affairs, and has responsibility for Catholic-Jewish relations. He speaks several languages, including English and Italian. Doctrinally, Kasper is a reformer on many issues. He has voiced a desire for decentralization and reform of the curia, and has even publicly clashed with John Paul's top defender of orthodoxy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Yet Kasper's moderate instincts do not mean he is incapable of hard talk when he thinks it's necessary. In 2002, for example, he asserted that the tight identification between church and state in Orthodox countries risks becoming a kind of ecclesiological heresy. Nevertheless, Kasper is regarded as a kind and open man.

Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexico, 62) (d.o.b. 6/6/42)
Rivera Carrera, whose ancestors were Tepehuene Indians, entered the seminary at age 13, taught ecclesiology at a pontifical university in Mexico, became bishop of Tehuac in 1985, and has served as archbishop of Mexico City since 1995. Rivera Carrera is a traditionalist on doctrine and liturgy. In 1990, he closed a seminary that he charged was teaching Marxism under the guise of liberation theology. Rivera Carrera is also close to the Legionaries of Christ, one of the conservative movements that sprang up after the Second Vatican Council. He is sometimes critical of folk religious practices that he believes contradict Christian orthodoxy; in 2003, for example, he argued that Christians should not consult horoscopes because the only star that truly influences human destiny is the "star of Bethlehem." Yet like many other Latin American churchmen, Rivera Carrera is a strong advocate of social justice. His criticism of globalization and political corruption so annoyed Mexico's Salinas government that it threatened to adopt a law forbidding priests from commenting on politics.

Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras, 62) (d.o.b. 12/29/42)

Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is widely seen as a rising star in the Latin American church. He served as president of CELAM, the federation of Latin American bishops' conferences, until 1999. He speaks near-perfect Italian and English (along with passable French, Portuguese, German, Latin, and Greek), plays the piano, and has taken pilot training. He is ferocious on social justice issues. He was part of a small group that met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in Cologne to hand over the Jubilee 2000 petition for debt relief. Some say his rhetoric, however, is not matched by a command of policy details. Rodriguez has a warm smile and a ready sense of humor. He earned a degree of notoriety in the United States in 2002 by comparing media criticism of the Catholic Church in light of the sex abuse scandals to persecutions under the Roman emperors Nero and Diocletian, as well as Hitler and Stalin. He later said his intent was to draw attention to the suffering of peoples in the Third World, suggesting that the massive media attention to the scandals in the American press was disproportionate.

Christoph Schonborn (Austria, 60) (d.o.b. 1/22/45)
A member of the Dominican order, Schonborn studied theology under Joseph Ratzinger in Regensburg, Germany, in the 1970s, and later taught at the prestigious Swiss University of Fribourg. He served as general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Schonborn comes from an aristocratic background -- some 19 members of his family have been archbishops, bishops or priests. He speaks several languages fluently, including French, Italian and English in addition to German, and he travels widely around the world, giving him a cosmopolitan outlook. As cardinal, he won high marks early on in Austria, where the church had been rocked by a sexual misconduct scandal involving his predecessor. As time went on, however, Schonborn committed missteps. He became involved in an ugly clash with the fiercely conservative Bishop Kurt Krenn of Sankt Polten. Schonborn carried out a purge of his staff, in one case firing his popular vicar general by leaving a note on his doorstep. These stumbles, combined with Schonborn's reputation as rigid in his theological views, seemed to some to tarnish his halo.

Angelo Scola (Italy, 63) (d.o.b. 11/7/41)
The patriarch of Venice, Scola is the first adherent of the conservative Comunnion and Liberation movement to become a cardinal. His particular interest is bioethics and the "culture of life," so one could expect a Scola papacy to be very energetic in defense of traditional Church teaching on these issues. Scola is fluent in several languages, including English, the result of his having studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Scola, formerly rector of the Lateran University, is considered conservative, a man with an open and curious mind. Asked in October 2003 by CNN to identify the main challenge facing the church, Scola said the principal one was flagged by Pope Paul VI: the "fracture" between the church and contemporary culture. "It's very difficult to determine whether this is the fault of the world that has abandoned the church, or the church that does not know how to relate to the world," Scola said. On a personal level, Scola is gracious, polished and approachable.

Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy, 70) (d.o.b. 3/14/34)
If an Italian is to be elected pope, Tettamanzi, the successor of the legendary Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in Milan, is perhaps the most likely candidate. He has a roly-poly, affable bearing reminiscent of John XXIII. Tettamanzi is moderate-to-conservative on theological issues. A moral theologian, he is rumored to have worked on John Paul's encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Tettamanzi burnished his credentials with traditionalists by writing letters in support of indulgences -- the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin that was anathema to Protestant Reformers -- and Church teaching on the devil. At the same time, he added luster to his standing with the left by embracing the anti-globalization protest, delivering a rousing address in June 2001 in which he insisted that "a single African child sick with AIDS counts more than the entire universe." Tettamanzi is perhaps the only one of the contenders to have corporate sponsorship; in 2000, Microsoft put out his new volume on bioethics online and on CD. Tettamanzi is not an especially gifted linguist and has not traveled a great deal outside Italy.

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