BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE POPE is expected to name a successor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor in the first quarter of next year, it emerged this week.
The final draft of the terna, a shortlist of three or four names of candidates, is in the final stages of preparation. It is being compiled by Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, the papal nuncko to Great Britain, who began his search for a new Archbishop of Westminster in the spring.
The terna will be submitted before Christmas to the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops which will begin the process of choosing just one name to present to Pope Benedict XVI.
If the Pope agrees the nomination, the nuncio will then ask the preferred candidate if they are willing to accept the position, which is considered the most senior ecclesial office in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. If the candidate assents the appointment will be made public.
However, if the Pope is unhappy with the choice, the search for a new archbishop will begin afresh.
Cardinal MurphyO'Connor submitted his resignation when he reached retirement age of 75 in August last year but was invited by the Pope to remain
in office until the right replacement is found. Church sources have revealed to The Catholic Herald that the Cardinal will be making very few diary appointments after the New Year.
The names on the terna will be bound by "pontifical secret". However, Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, has made Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham the clear 13/8 favourite for the post.