Latin Americans Among Pope Candidates

April 8, 2005

THE 1978 election of Pope John PaulII, the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years,coupled with the high concentration ofCatholics in the Americas, where half ofthe world’s believers reside, has openedthe gates to speculation that Latin Americacould proffer the pope.The buzz in Central America, on thelips of people as disparate as Presidents,jobless parishioners and recent collegegraduates, is the prospect that one of theirown might be elected: Archbishop ofTegucigalpa, Honduras, Cardinal ÓscarAndrés Rodríguez.Rodríguez, 62, speaks seven languages.Abishop since 1978, he has led theLatin American Bishops Council and waselevated to cardinal in 2001.Honduras President Ricardo Madurocalled the possibility of a Rodríguez papacy“extraordinary.”“It would be an incredible honor andsource of enormous joy if it were thatway,” Maduro said.COSTA Rican President Abel Pachecothis week highly endorsed Rodríguez, callinghim “amazing, a great humanist, multilingual,a simple, happy man who is notamong those who believe that to be goodyou have to be angry all the time.”He acknowledged that any pope designatedby the Catholic Church would bewell taken, but, “Imagine the beauty ofhaving a Central American pope,” he said.“How amazing that would be. Besides, Ibelieve we deserve it because LatinAmerica has, today, the highest concentrationof Catholics in the world.”Angel Sancasimiro, bishop of the dioceseof Ciudad Quesada, in Costa Rica’sNorthern Zone, said, “It’s impossible toknow who will be chosen, and I, as a man ofGod, have the faith that who will guide theCardinals in their decision of who will be thenext pope is the Holy Spirit. For me, I wouldbe happy if he was Latin American. Ojalá aCentral American, and ojalá a Honduran.That is my desire.”CARDINAL Claudio Hummes,Archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil, is alsoconsidered a likely candidate, as is NorbertoRivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City.The three Latin Americans are among theprelates most insistently mentioned as candidatesto succeed Pope John Paul II, a reflectionof the weighty fact that four in 10Catholics in the world are from the region.Two others mentioned as possible candidatesare Buenos Aires Archbishop JorgeBergoglio and Colombia’s Dario CastrillonHoyos, who currently heads the Vaticanoffice of the clergy.Observers agree that the choice of aLatin American pontiff would be recognitionboth of the significance of Catholicismin the region and of the region’s weightwithin the church.Rogelio Zelada, adjunct lecturer in theologyat the Miami archdiocese’s St. JohnVianney College Seminary, said the selectionof a pope from the region “would be arecognition of the dynamic presence ofLatin America in the church.”LATIN America has a bigger portionof the world’s Catholics than any otherregion, though it is not quite a majority.Of the approximately 1.1 billion peopleon the planet who profess RomanCatholicism, just over 400 million areLatin Americans.But what seems more significant thanthe calls for a Latin American pontiff aresigns that this move may now be a realoption for the College of Cardinals.Carlos Aguiar, bishop of Texcoco andsecretary general of the Mexican BishopsConference, says it is now “possible” tothink about a pope from Latin America.

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