During the run-up to the conclave, most of the buzz around papal candidates is generated by pundits and church-watchers, as opposed to the cardinals who will actually vote. As an index of broader opinion in the church, the buzz is often illuminating; as a guide to what might actually happen, it can be of limited utility, writes John Allen in NCR Online.
The "Great Asian Hope" in the 2013 conclave could turn out to be a case in point.
On the buzz meter, the clear winner is Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines, whose nickname is "Chito." He's young, articulate, smiling, and media-savvy, with a reputation for simplicity and humility. Tagle is hugely popular back home, and tends to wow people wherever he goes.
Among the cardinals, however, there's another Asian who might seem a more compelling choice: Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith (formally, Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don) of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
For one thing, Ranjith is 65, ten years older than Tagle, and probably right in line with the ideal age profile: Not as young as John Paul was in 1978, meaning he wouldn't have an overly long papacy, but not as old as Benedict XVI in 2005, meaning the church probably wouldn't face another transition too soon.
For another, Ranjith has extensive Vatican experience, so he wouldn't require the same on-the-job training as a complete outsider. He served as an official in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (better known as "Propaganda Fidei"), as the pope's nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor, and then as Secretary for the Congregation of Divine Worship. He also studied in Rome at the Urbanian University and is proficient in Italian, usually seen as a core requirement for a prospective pope.
For a third, Ranjith profiles as a "Ratzingerian," meaning a churchman cut from the same cloth as Benedict XVI. That's especially the case regarding his attitudes on liturgy, supporting the older Latin Mass and rejecting secularizing tendencies in Catholic worship.
In 1994, as a young bishop, Ranjith led a commission that denounced the theological work of Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, charging that he had questioned original sin and the divinity of Christ, as well as supporting women's ordination. The resulting furore first brought Ranjith into contact with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who backed his position.
FULL STORY Papabile of the day: the men who could be pope (NCR)