Pope Benedict XVI might be off – but his conservative allies are still there

Of the 120 electors who get to vote 67 of them have been appointed by Benedict

As speculation mounts over who will be the new leader of the world’s 1.2billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has stressed that he will play no part in the appointment of his successor.

But in reality he doesn’t need to whisper in the ears of fellow Cardinals to ensure a replacement that he might approve of. Over the past seven years, the German-born pontiff has packed the body charged with electing his replacement with like-minded social conservatives who espouse Benedict’s religious orthodoxy and are equally suspicious of their liberal counterparts who say the Catholic Church desperately needs radical reform.

Of the 120 cardinal electors who will get to cast their vote under the frescos of the Sistine Chapel next month, Benedict has named 67 of them. The other 53 were named by his predecessor. Only Cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed to vote for a new pontiff at the papal conclave and, because Cardinals tend to be elderly when they reach such a high position, there is an inevitably high turn-over in the elective body. So although Ben-edict’s reign was just a quarter of the length of John Paul II’s, he has significantly more allies than his predecessor.

The Catholic Church is heading into uncharted waters. The College of Cardinals hasn’t had to elect a Pope while another was still alive in more than 600 years and, though Benedict has insisted he will remain above politics, many commentators have suggested the electors will inevitably feel pressured to vote for a pontiff that Benedict would approve of.

As John Allen, a seasoned Vatican analyst, wrote in yesterday’s National Catholic Reporter: “At least some cardinals may feel special pressure not to do anything that would be perceived as a repudiation of Benedict’s papacy, or that they suspect would cause him consternation.”

Benedict’s Cardinal appointments have not been without controversy. A number of American media outlets – including Catholic ones – have reacted with outrage that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who was removed from public duties last week over allegations that he helped cover up sexual abuse charges against a priest, will be one of those who gets to vote for Benedict’s successor.

During his tenure, Benedict was criticised for regularly promoting fellow conservatives to Cardinal with a distinctly pro-European bias, despite the vast majority of the globe’s Catho-lics living in the developing world.

Outside of Europe, Benedict has favoured fellow conservatives with strong track records of speaking out against traditionalist red lines such as homosexuality, contraception, abortion and secularisation. New York’s ultra-conservative Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s star, for example, has risen considerably under Benedict because he is so eloquent at attacking the Obama administration on such traditionalist issues.

In an attempt to stave off these criticism that he was too Euro-centric, late last year Benedict appointed five developing world cardinals from India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Lebanon and Colombia. But the new appointments – such as Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila and Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja – are renowned for their hard line opposition to key developing world issues like contraception and gay rights.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn