Two cardinals from Africa, a Canadian and an Italian are among those being tipped to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
Report by The Guardian/AFP
With Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, speculation about who might succeed him when the conclave meets in March has begun.
Any baptised Roman Catholic male is eligible for election as pope, but only cardinals have been selected since 1378.
It is extremely rare for a Pope to resign.
In the Middle Ages, Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294, after only five months as pontiff. He died nearly two years later as a hermit. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
The resigning Pope was born Joseph Ratzinger into a traditional Bavarian farming family in 1927. Among those who have been mentioned as potential successors are the following:
Cardinal Peter Turkson: A TV star, “people’s person” and a “wonderful” priest, the Ghanaian cardinal emerging as a strong favourite for the papacy is described by colleagues in glowing terms. Turkson, who is president of the Vatican’s pontifical council for justice and peace, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003 after serving for almost 30 years as an ordained priest.
Benedict XVI also attracted the ire of Muslims after a 2006 lecture in Regensburg, his former university, in which he used a quotation to suggest that contributions made by the prophet Muhammad were “only evil and inhuman”. Ghana, whose population is roughly 63% Christian — including around 11% Catholic — and 16% Muslim, is known for its relative tolerance and peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet: As prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, which oversees the handing out of mitres, the multilingual Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet is one of the most powerful men in the Vatican. The 68-year-old former archbishop of Quebec, who was appointed to the third most important job in the Vatican three years ago, has the power to make or break careers. His position makes him a natural candidate for the papacy, although he was careful to downplay any talk of promotion when he was chosen to lead the congregation in July 2010.
Cardinal Francis Arinze: Born in Eziowelle, Nigeria, on November 1 1932, has long been touted as a possible pope. Although his parents worshipped Ibo deities, Arinze — one of seven children — was sent to an Irish missionary school and soon set his heart on becoming a priest.
He was ordained in 1958 and went on to teach liturgy, logic and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary at Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria and study at the Institute of Pedagogy in London.
Cardinal Angelo Scola: The election of Angelo Scola as Benedict XVI’s successor would delight Italians keen to see one of their own back on the papal throne after Polish and German popes. Scola was born on November 7 1941 in Lombardy. Ordained in 1970, he holds doctorates in philosophy and theology.
The full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation statement
I HAVE convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the ship of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.
And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.
With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
Calls for an African Pope renewed
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation has sparked calls for his successor to come from Africa, home to the world’s fastest-growing population and the front line of key issues facing the Roman Catholic Church.
Around 15% of the world’s 1,2 billion Catholics live in Africa and the percentage has expanded significantly in recent years in comparison to other parts of the world.
Much of the Catholic Church’s recent growth has come in the developing world, with the most rapid expansions in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Some analysts see the issue as one of justice since Africa has contributed to the Catholic Church to such a large degree, as well as a reflection of a changing world.
“An African pope could give more vitality to the Catholic Church in the black world. It would demonstrate the universal character of the religion,” said Rene Legre Hokou, head of the Ivory Coast League of Human Rights.
A number of African Catholic Church members had a mixed view saying they would like to see a fellow African elected pope, but wanted the most qualified person, no matter where he is from.
Africans have flocked to evangelical religions, with many seeing them as more relevant to their daily lives, posing a challenge to the Catholic Church.
Also in countries like Nigeria, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south, religious and ethnic tensions have led to violence.
Vatican watchers say the college of cardinals may seize the moment to elect a Latin-American, African or Asian pope.
At Saint Antonio da Polana Church in the Mozambique capital Maputo after Benedict’s announcement, parishioner Zeb Renardo said he did not think the time had come.
“I will say categorically that I doubt we will have an African pope,” he said. “I think the moment hasn’t come for us to see an African pope.”
Benedict visited Africa twice, most recently the West African nation of Benin in 2011, while before that Angola and Cameroon in 2009.