Right now, the “next pope” conversation isn’t creating much buzz. There’s no sign of a health crisis around Benedict XVI, and Catholic attention around the world is focused on more local matters, writes John Allen in NCR Online.
Yet with an 85-year-old pope beginning to show his age, speculation about who might come next is always in the background, even if it’s on a low boil.
I just returned from a couple of weeks in Rome, and below I offer a sort of “poll average” of the current state of thinking about papal candidates among Vatican-watchers, by which I mean Vatican personnel, prelates from around the world, diplomats, journalists, academics, and so on.
Such conventional wisdom is hardly infallible, so take this for what it’s worth – no more, really, than the kind of thing you’ll hear at many Roman dinner tables.
The eleven names below are organized into concentric circles of plausibility, from “front-runners” to “possibilities” to “long shots.” My experience is that pretty much everybody agrees on the top two names on this list, Cardinals Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet, but after that things get murkier.
For each candidate, I offer a thumbnail sketch of the usual case for and against. These aren’t designed to reflect the full range of views about each man in wider Catholic discussion, but rather the points likely to carry the most weight among cardinals – who, of course, are the ones who will do the voting.
1. Cardinal Angelo Scola, 70, Italy, Archbishop of Milan
The case for: Scola, a veteran academic whose interest is theological anthropology, is very much in sync with Benedict XVI, but he’s personally more of an extrovert with a somewhat greater optimism about the church’s prospects in the here and now. One signature initiative is the “Oasis” project, designed to foster dialogue with Islam and to support Christians in the Middle East – two front-burner priorities for any future pope.
FULL STORY A poll average from Rome on the next Pope (NCR)