Following the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI there are chances of a Latin Pope who may try to check growth of Protestantism in Americas, says Soroor Ahmed of NVONews.Com
After two consecutive non-Italian Popes––John Paul-II from Poland and Benedict-XVI from Germany––there is likelihood of a non-European spiritual head of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholic world. And most probably he may be from Latin America, where 42 per cent of world’s Catholic lives against 25 per cent in Europe, but where Protestant churches are also growing rapidly––thanks to the strong presence of Evangelists in the United States.
Protestantism is incidentally growing fast in Brazil, the country with highest Catholic population in the world.
When John Paul-II was elected on October 16, 1978 he broke about five centuries––since 1523––of nearly non-stop Italian Papacy.
Benedict himself was the first German Pope in 1000 years.
Latin America––right from Mexico to Argentina–– forms the largest single block of Catholic population. Many of the cardinals have been associated with liberation theology and supported the pro-poor people’s movement. The Church has been active in various anti-dictatorship movement.
With Communism gone, or has at least got weakened globally––if not so much in Latin America––there is now challenge from Protestantism in the western hemisphere. But then it is not as inimical as the Marxist or Maoist ideology.
Experts are of the view that Polish John Paul helped a lot in bringing down the Communist in Poland and Benedict’s rise to the top from the land of the birth of Martin Luther King, was much more symbolic. It was King, who in 15th century launched the anti-Roman Catholic movement.
Senior Vatican officials recently dropped clear hints about possible Latin American successors. But that was before the surprise resignation of Benedict.
For example, another German-born Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who now holds Pope Benedict’s old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was quoted in Duesseldorf’s Rheinische Post newspaper just before Christmas as saying “The universal Church teaches that Christianity isn’t centered on Europe.”
Similarly, Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, told the Tagesanzeiger daily in Zurich at the same time that the Church’s future was not in Europe.
“It would be good if there were candidates from Africa or South America at the next conclave,” he said.
According to Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters if the next conclave really is Latin America’s turn, the leading candidates there seem to be Odilo Scherer (63) archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paolo, or the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, now heading the Vatican department for Eastern Churches. Though Leonardo Sandri 69 is from Argentina he is a sort of ‘transatlantic’ figure born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents.
Peter Turkson 64 from Ghana, now head of the Vatican’s justice and peace department, is often tipped as Africa’s frontrunner, he added.
But then about half the cardinals who can vote are from Europe, even though only a quarter of the world’s Catholics live there. If the conclave tilts to the Old Continent, Vatican watchers say Angelo Scola of Milan is in pole position.
Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a former student and close ally of Benedict, is also considered a strong candidate.
Reports said that there are several other names in the race. They are Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil, 65), Timothy Dolan, (USA, 62), Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68), Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy, 70), Christoph Schoenborn (Austria, 67), Angelo Scola (Italy, 71), Luis Tagle (Philippines, 55).