John Paul II chose nearly 100 percent of the cardinals who will elect the next pope. The late pontiff is credited with diversifying the electoral body by appointing cardinals from newly formed dioceses in Africa and Latin America. Still, 20 out of the 115 men who will file into the Sistine Chapel on Apr. 18 are Italian. Many of them have held top positions within the Roman Curia and or have worked in large Italian dioceses. In the days following the death of pope John Paul II, the Italian press has named many of the Italian electors among their papabile.

Among the papabile noted by the Italian press, most of them are Italian. "The idea of an Italian papabile is in favor. The Italians have a wide international vision and are likely to bend with regard to gradual reforms. An Italian could loosen the excessive rigidity of Wojtyla with regard to familiar relationships and sexuality," wrote La Repubblica 's seasoned Vatican journalist, Marco Politi, who co-authored "His Holiness: John Paul II and the Hidden history of Our Time," with the famed American journalist Carl Bernstein.

The top Italian papabile as reflected in the press is Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 70, Archbishop of Milan, according to Italian dailies such as Corriere della Sera, La Stampa, and La Repubblica.

Tettamanzi, emerged as a favorite, when on Apr. 4 in Milan, a multi-ethnic crowd shouted, "Long live the next pope," as the stout, candid Tettamanzi emerged from the city's gothic cathedral waving to the masses. "Tettamanzi is undoubtedly a point figure. He has the right age, a solid doctrinal position, and was dear to Wojtyla. At the same time, he has a human and pastoral disposition when confronted with the issues facing contemporary Christians," wrote Politi.

Cardinal Tettamanzi is said to have assisted John Paul II in writing "Evangelium Vitae," an encyclical on human-life issues. A scholar and former professor of moral theology, he has written extensively on bio-ethics. He backed anti-globalization protesters at the tumultuous G-8 forum in Genoa in 2001 and has spoken out passionately against world poverty. He has frequently addressed youth, urging them to follow the way and life of Jesus Christ. Corriere della Sera's Giangicamo Schiavi wrote that Tettamanzi is "a man of dialogue who doesn't surrender himself to a barren society." Schiavi described Tettamanzi as a good mediator between extremely conservative and non-conservative candidates.

Other Italian front-runners include:
  • Cardinal Angelo Scola, 64, Patriarch of Venice, who has followed in Pope John Paul's footsteps with regard to inter-religious dialogue. During his career he has reached out to the Orthodox church and Muslim world. Corriere della Sera lauded him as "Born poor and chosen by Wojtyla." La Repubblica's Politi explained that the Scola's relative youth could count against him, but stressed that he is nevertheless formidable competition for Tettamanzi.
  • Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, 62, who headed the Pontifical Council for the Evangelization of the People. He studied canon law and theology and worked for years as a professor of theology. Sepe has also worked for the Vatican Secretary of State and served on the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. La Repubblica listed Sepe among seven papabile, referring to him as "The Red Pope," a name he earned serving as the curial official responsible for all of the world's missionaries.
  • Angelo Sodano, 78, ex-Vatican Secretary of State, is a cardinal who has had exceptional experience in the Roman Curia. He served as the apostolic nuncio, or liaison, between the Vatican and Chile. Sodano has been criticized by Italian media for his quick transition from diplomat to curial official.
  • La Repubblica has listed him among seven papabile. Il Giornale, however, criticized Sodano for going "from diplomat to Secretary of State without driving a diocese."

    Also mentioned among the papabile by other Italian newspapers include:
  • Camillo Ruini, 73, Vicar of Rome
  • Tarcisio Bertone, 70, Archbishop of Genoa
  • Gian Battista Re, 71, former Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission of Latin America.
  • The Italian media have also scrutinized non-Italian papabile, including:
  • Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, 60, the youngest papabile in the College of Cardinals. Born in Czechoslovakia, he hails from an aristocratic family. After being ordained as a Dominican, he studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Vienna before being ordained a Dominican priest in 1970. He later became a professor of Eastern Christian Theology and during his career made strides to forge dialogue between Orthodox and Christians. Corriere della Sera heralded him as a "voyager of dialogue with the Orthodox."
  • Corriere writer Paolo Valentino wrote, "He has the reverse problem with respect to a Rolling Stones song, 'Time is on My Side.' His young age, with respect to the cardinal electors, could be his biggest handicap. Many experts say the cardinals will chose an older candidate, whose pontificate will not last as long as the 26-year run that Karol Wojtyla had."
  • Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, a candidate who has worked among the poor and suffering, as a Franciscan in Brazil.
  • Oscar R. Maradiaga, 62, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Maradiaga drew attention for speaking out against media coverage of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. He also served as president of the Latin American Bishops Council.
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