Pope Successor Scenarios

Speculation will now be ratcheting daily about the successor to Pope John Paul II. The world will watch for clues as to which of the 117 voting-age Cardinals seems to have an inside track to the papacy.

A Cardinal of color? The Italian Battalion? A Latin American? An American American? The sacrilegious will quote odds. The blasphemous will take them.

An early New York Times’ short list features four Italians, two other Europeans, an African and three Latin Americans.

The handicapping included this curious capsule of Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, 60, the Archbishop of Vienna: “Multilingual, highly educated; youth could be a handicap.” Or how about 62-year-old Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa? He’s summarized as: “Multilingual, outspoken on social issues; relative youth is handicap.”

YOUTH as a disadvantage? Still wet behind the mitre? Do sexagenarians need co-signers?

But both Schoenborn and Rodriguez are older than John Paul II was when he was elected (at age 58) in 1978. Could this be insider code for “the fix is in” for a caretaker or a transitional figure who won’t go off the conservative reservation staked out by John Paul II?

Put me down for Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 77, the Vatican’s secretary of state and second only to the Pope in church hierarchy. Which means he’s been running a lot of the day-to-day stuff for a while.

If it matters, he’s the one with on-the-job experience. And he’s old enough.

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