Monday, February 11, 2013

Will a Latin American Become the Next Pope?

On Monday Pope Benedict XVI declared that he would resign from his post effective February 28th.  “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,” said Benedict in a statement read on Vatican radio.

His surprise announcement has led to speculation over who could soon replace the 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church.  Is it possible that the new pontiff will come from Latin America rather than Europe?  Here are six possible candidates from the Americas who could become the church’s 266th pope:

Odilo Scherer (Brazil): Scherer is the Archbishop of São Paulo, which is the largest diocese in the world’s largest Catholic country.  He is young compared to other papal candidates (63-years-old) and his relatively moderate views could attract those dissatisfied with the scandals under Benedict.  The growth of evangelicals in Brazil could be a disadvantage for Scherer’s candidacy even though the next World Youth Day will be held this year in Rio de Janeiro.
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras): Betting house Paddy Power gave 10-to-1 odds in favor of the papal candidacy of the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and ex-President of the Latin American Episcopal Conference.  As President of Caritas Internationalis, he has urged “the world’s richest nations to keep their promises to increase and improve development aid to the world’s poorest countries”.  His views on social inequality aside, he has also shared the Vatican’s hard line on areas such as homosexuality and birth control.

Leonardo Sandri (Argentina): Sandri is the head of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and he was also chief of staff, the third most important Vatican post, under Pope John Paul II between 2000 and 2007.  His experience and his Italian heritage are factors that led one religious commentator to label Sandri as a "safe hands" candidate.

Marc Ouellet (Canada):  The former Archbishop of Quebec isn’t Latino, per se, but Ouellet has served as the president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America since June 2010.  Last year he advocated for the rights of Latin American immigrants in Spain and in 2007 he apologized for Church errors including  “discrimination against women and homosexuals”.  Nevertheless, Ouellet is a “Ratzingerian intellectually” who is cut from the same conservative cloth as the current pontiff.

Francisco Robles Ortega (Mexico): The 63-year-old Archbishop of Guadalajara and President of the Mexican Episcopal Conference could be a dark horse candidate to become the next pontiff.  In 2011 he was chosen as one of the first members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which works to reawaken the faith in traditionally Christian parts of the world such as Europe and North America. 

Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino (Cuba): Another long-shot candidate from Latin America, Ortega y Alamino is the Archbishop of Havana and head of the Cuban bishops' conference.  He reportedly promotes youth involvement in the Church, and he has worked in the rebuilding of churches and parish houses in Cuba.  He has also been outspoken over human rights abuses and he helped broker the release of dozens of political prisoners in 2010.  Yet he has come under fire anti-Castro factions who view him as weak and appeasing towards the Cuban government.

Video Source– YouTube via CNN (Pope Benedict XVI visited Mexico last March during one of his few trips to Latin America in his nearly eight years as pontiff).

Online Sources – National Catholic Reporter, Pontifical Commission for Latin America, CBC News, Diario Uno, USA TODAY, The Latin Times, CNN, Christian Science Monitor, El Universal, CBS News, Huffington Post, Caritas Internationalis, El Diario del Juego,

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