If the Irish online bookmaker Paddy Power is anything to go by, then the chances that the next pope will be from Latin America and even Colombia are good. Punters can choose between 29 possible papal contenders, of which five are of Latin American origin.
Colombians are hoping that Paddy Power is right. The Colombian favourite is Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, currently a 10-1 shot.
The 75-year-old mediasavvy frontrunner has been prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy since February 1998.
Born in Medellin, Colombia’s second city, Cardinal Hoyos later moved to Italy where he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a doctorate in canon law.
Between 1983 and 1987 he was general secretary of the influential Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) and president of the same council for four years until 1991. In April 2000 he was named President of the Papal Commission “Ecclesia Dei.” Cardinal Hoyos is seen as papabile, a candidate for the next pope, because of his impressive oratory skills and his ability to appeal to and lead mass audiences. He also shares Pope John Paul II’s conservative views.
An often cited tale from the Vatican, describes Cardinal Hoyos entering the Vatican press room and briefly speaking with journalists. Such was the unprecedented break from tradition, that apparently all the journalists stood up and cheered.
More high profile and controversial is the other Colombian papabile, 69year-old Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo.
After teaching philosophy at a major seminary in Bogotá during the 1960s, he was made Archbishop of Medellin in 1979.
Like his Colombian rival, Cardinal Trujillo studied in Rome and has also been secretary general and president of CELAM during his road to the Vatican. The peak of his illustrious career was his appointment as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which he has headed since 1990.
Cardinal Trujillo uses the powerful pontifical council as a platform from which to vigorously support family life and defend the rights of the unborn child. He urges Catholics to reject those who see children as, “a burden, a threat to development, and who even think, as the Holy Father denounces, that the wrongdoing, the crime, of abortion is right. Can it ever be a right to kill the fruit of the womb?” Cardinal Trujillo sees a family based on marriage as the “primary cell of society”. He believes that promoting the family as the pillar of society is the best remedy for the world’s social problems.
In a speech at the Fourth World Meeting of Families in Manila last year, he said: “There is no better investment for the government, for legislators, than to favour the families, strengthen their unity, support them.” Last October, Cardinal Trujillo caused controversy after claiming that condoms were ineffective in preventing the spread of the HIV virus during an interview on the BBC’s Panorama programme.
He told the programme makers that “the Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the “net” that is formed by the condom.” He proposed that condom packages and advertisements display a health warning saying that condoms are not 100 per cent safe.
His comments were condemned by the World Health Organisation as dangerous and incorrect.
But pundits speculate that Cardinal Trujillo is a possible candidate for Pope in the next conclave because of his curial experience, age and staunch views on abortion and family values which he shares with the current Pope.
Perhaps the most compelling reason why either Colombian cardinal stands a reasonable chance of receiving more than two thirds of the required votes in the conclave election is because they are from Latin America.
It appears that there is now a strong desire among the 122 cardinal electors to select the next pope from the developing world. And there is a real possibility that Pope John Paul II’s successor will be from Latin America since 33 of the cardinal electors are of Latin American origin, making up no fewer than 20 per cent of the voters in the College of Cardinals.
This percentage rises to 36 per cent when one considers that the cardinals from Portugal and Spain are, for historical reasons, more inclined to vote for a Latin American pope.
Other cardinals from Latin America including, Mexican Norberto Rivera Carrera, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, and friend of U2’s Bono – Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, are all papabile.
The election of a Latin American pope is seen as a way of bridging the North/South divide in the same way that Pope John Paul II’s appointment in 1978 helped to heal rifts over the Iron Curtain that separated Western and Eastern Europe.
It is also felt that a pope from Latin America would be better placed and more experienced to confront the urgent issues of world poverty and globalisation in comparison to a British or North American counterpart.
Membership of the Catholic Church is growing in Latin America. Mgr Sidney Fones from Chile, Assistant Secretary General of CELAM, explains that an important factor to consider in the next papal election is, “that nearly half of all the world’s Catholics live in Latin America”.
He said: “If one feels that Europe has had its time, then the most obvious choice would be someone from Latin America, because in comparison to the second evangelisation in Africa, historically the Catholic Church in Latin America has a greater tradition and is more developed”.
For Colombians, such views bring hope. Mgr Fabian Marulanda, General Secretary of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, said that while he would not speculate about the Pope’s successor, the appointment of a Colombian pope, “would be a dream come true and an enormous privilege for Colombia”.
Regular churchgoer, The heir apparent? John Paul II, above, sprinkles Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos with ashes. The next pope is likely to be a man who reflects John Paul II’s aspirations for the Church Right, cardinals confer Photos CNS Gloria Rodríguez reflects the sentiments shared by many fellow Colombians, when she says that a Colombian pope would, “help and benefit the region and Colombia spiritually, politically and economically”. But perhaps more importantly, a Colombian pope would help to dispel the stereotype that the country is not just about violence and drug cartels and improve Colombia’s notorious public relations image around the world.
Whatever the eventual nationality of the 264th successor to St Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, he will have to deal with the key problems confronting the Catholic Church, including the issues of decision-making and power distribution, decentralisation and how women can be given a pivotal role in the Church, without becoming priests.
The Pope’s successor will also have to decide how best the Church attempts to curb the divide between Islam and Christianity and to foster understanding between the two faiths.
The man to emerge from the Sistine Chapel amid a background of rising white smoke will most likely be a man of John Paul II’s choosing. Because the Pope appoints cardinals, this allows him to influence the election that follows his death.
And because of the pontiff’s longevity, the Pope has now appointed almost 93 per cent of the electoral body.
Not surprisingly, most of those chosen by the Pope to become cardinals share his traditional views on the teachings of the Church.
But there are no certainties here. As an old Vatican proverb says: “He who goes into the conclave a pope, comes out a cardinal”, and a new contender may yet emerge.