Pope Benedict XVI resigns: Who is next in line? A selection process shrouded in secrecy

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s shock resignation may be virtually unheard of in modern times but the system that will choose the Catholic Church’s new leader follows centuries of well-rehearsed and high secretive tradition. It is a process that has, by and large, enabled successors to be picked quickly and we could even see a new Pontiff enthroned before Easter Sunday.

The task falls to the College of Cardinals who convene in secret and are locked inside the Vatican until a new Pope is elected. Each member, who must be younger than 80 years old, is sworn to secrecy. Every day two ballots are taken in the morning and two in the afternoon. Once they are counted the ballots are burned. If one single candidate receives a two-thirds majority, a new Pope is elected and the smoke coming out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel is changed from black to white.

Historically the papal conclave must meet no sooner than 15 days and no later than 28 days after a Pope’s death. But because Benedict has chosen to step down and has given the advance date of 28 February as his last day in office, there is no need for a traditional mourning period which should mean that the College of Cardinals will be meeting by the second week in March at the latest. But they may even decide to meet even sooner.

Speculation is now mounting over who could become his successor. Technically any baptised Roman Catholic male can be made the Bishop of Rome but the Pope has always been chosen from the ranks of Cardinals since 1378.

Given that the vast majority of the world’s one billion Catholics now live in the developing world, excitement is already mounting that the new Pope will be an African or Latin American Cardinal.

The difficulty with such predictions is that no-one other than the Cardinals themselves witness what happens inside the Sistine Chapel. After John Paul II’s death in 2005 many commentators were convinced that the new Pope would be African or Latin American. But the College of Cardinals has a distinct geographical bias, with half its voting members from Europe despite the fact that the continent only accounts for 25 percent of Catholics worldwide. When the time came to pick John Paul’s successor, they went for a fellow European and a man who had earned himself the nickname “God’s Rottweiler” because of his adherence to traditional orthodoxy.

The election of a non-white Pope would mark a radical break from 1,500 years of history (there have been three Pope who originated from Africa, the last of whom Pope Gelasius, died in 496AD).

The two African front runners, Cardinals Peter Turkson form Ghana and Nigeria’s Francis Arinze, have a long history of inter-faith dialogue with Muslims and could help build bridges following Pope Benedict’s lacklustre ecumenism. But their strictly orthodox views of homosexuality would cause friction with more liberal Catholics in the West.

Latin America’s long history of liberation theology means some of the most powerful cardinals from that continent could bridge the social divide between liberals and conservatives. The leading candidates there seem to be Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paolo, or the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, now heading the Vatican department for Eastern Churches.

Two senior Catholic figures - archbishop Gerhard Mueller (who now holds the pope's old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch (head of the Vatican department for Christian unity) have both given recent interviews saying the Catholic church would benefit from a Latin American Pope.

But there’s every chance the next leader could still be another European. The Italians are also known to be keen on seizing back the papacy with Milan’s Angelo Scola, the current head of the Pontiifical Council for Culture Gianfranco Ravasi and the Vatican’s top diplomat Tarcisio Bertone are possible front runners.

Elsewhere, Canadian Cardinal  Marc Oullet – the current head of the Congregation of Bishops – and New York’s notoriously conservative cardinal Timothy Dolan are considered potential “new world” contenders.

Popes in waiting? The top candidates

Leonardo Sandri: A top contender to become Latin America’s first Pope, Argentinian Cardinal Sandri is currently the head of the Vatican’s Eastern Churches department.

Odilo Scherer:  As Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Scherer has the largest diocese in the largest Catholic country. He is conservative in his country but would rank as a moderate elsewhere which is why he might be attractive to all sides.

Peter Turkson: The top cleric in Ghana is probably the strongest candidate to become the first African Pope in 1,500 years. Currently head of the Vatican Justice and Peace Bureau he is very conservative on homosexuality.

Francis Arinze: Like Turkson, Cardinal Arinze is highly conservative on divisive issues such as homosexuality. But he has a good track record of dialogue with Muslims, something Benedict lacked.

Angelo Scola: The Italians are known to be keen on taking back the papacy and Milan’s Archbishop, Cardinal Scola, is considered their favourite candidate. He also has a good track record on Christian-Muslim relations.

Marc Ouellet: The best chance North America has of producing its first Pope, Cardinal Ouellet is one of the Vatican’s most senior officials as head of the Congregation of Bishops.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones