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Papal Elections

Short Profiles of Leading Candidates for Pope and Successor of John Paul II


Peter Seewald Present 'Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times' In Milan
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Below are short profiles of some of the leading candidates for the office of pope as successor to John Paul II. There is no guarantee that any of these men will be elected pope — John Paul II himself was not on anyone’s short list of likely successors to Pope John Paul. By reading these profiles, however, you can get some sense of what the cardinals may be looking for and what they may try to avoid.


Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
Dionigi Tettamanzi is probably the leading Italian candidate for pope. The Italian contingent of cardinals is fairly well disciplined and likely want to return the papacy to an Italian, so if they are able to succeed it will likely be with Tettamanzi.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Angelo Sodano has been criticized for the influence he exercised over John Paul II. A number of cardinals named by the pope in 2001 were, for example, from Sodano’s own sphere of influence. Such actions win as many friends as enemies.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
Christoph Schoenborn may be too young to be elected pope. It is true that John Paul II was elected at a young age, but it’s unlikely that the cardinals would want to have another pontiff rule for a stretch of two or three decades.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga
Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga is young and, therefore, not in the forefront of Latin American cardinals who could be elected pope. Of course, being young didn’t stop John Paul II from being elected, but it is unlikely that the cardinals would want another 25-year pontificate.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Giovanni Battista Re has staunchly defended tradition, but he has also been something of a moderate - for example, expressing support for greater decentralization and giving more power to local churches.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Joseph Ratzinger is wildly popular among conservatives, but just as unpopular among liberals. The election of Cardinal Ratzinger would represent a strong vote in favor of conservatism, traditionalism, and a continued fight against the modern world.

Cardinal Jose Da Cruz Policarpo
Jose Da Cruz Policarpo is not well known because he has spent most of his life working in Portugal. He is, however, evidently popular among the cardinals and this means that he may have a chance at winning — especially if the cardinals wish to elect someone that isn’t an “expected” choice by outsiders.

Cardinal Ivan Dias
Ivan Dias is theologically conservative, something which stands in contrast to some of the more unusual views common among India’s Catholics.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Probably the strongest factor working against Bergoglio is the fact that he is a Jesuit. He would be the first Jesuit pope if elected, but there continues to be strong anti-Jesuit feelings within the Catholic church, and even some Jesuits oppose the idea of one of their own rising to the office of pope.

Cardinal Nicolas De Jesus Lopez Rodriguez
Nicolas De Jesus Lopez Rodriguez would likely receive support from various factions of conservative cardinals who are looking for a candidate who will defend traditional theology and orthodox doctrines. Rodriguez would ensure that the Catholic church would not grow more liberal in any key areas.

Cardinal Walter Kasper
Because of his moderate theological views, Walter Kasper has been popular with liberal and progressive Catholics. Because of his support for decentralization in the Vatican hierarchy, he has also gained some support from those who are otherwise conservative.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar
Lubomyr Husar is theologically moderate. He defends conservative tradition when it comes to matters of doctrine, but coming from an Eastern tradition gives him a perspective interpreted by many as somewhat progressive.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes
Claudio Hummes could be perceived as a good balance between progressive and conservative trends. He started out liberal, became more conservative, yet continues to defend certain progressive positions.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels
Because of Godfried Danneels’ progressive views, voting for him to become pope would mean voting for major changes in the Catholic church. Danneels supports changes in many different church positions. He would, for example, try to put more women in positions of responsibility, such as running a congregation of the Roman Curia.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos
Dario Castrillon Hoyos, like so much of the clergy in Latin America, has focused a great deal on defending the poor despite his opposition to liberation theology. If the cardinals pick a third world pope, one from Latin America may make the most sense.

Cardinal Francis Arinze
If Francis Arinze is elected pope, he would not be the first African pope, but he would be the first African pope in more than 1,500 years. The prospect of a black pope from Africa has captured the imagination of Catholics and non-Catholics all over the world.

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