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Pope Benedict to Play No Role in Choosing Successor

Pope Benedict waves to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's square during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican, May 16, 2010.
Pope Benedict waves to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's square during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican, May 16, 2010.
VOA News
Vatican officials say Pope Benedict will play no role in the election of his successor, who is expected to be named before Easter on March 31.

A Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, says the pontiff has indicated he has no intention of trying to influence the decisions of his successor.

"He will not have any responsibility of guidance of the church, any administrative or government responsibility.  This is absolutely clear. This is the sense of the resignation.

Lombardi commented a day after Pope Benedict shocked the world with a surprise resignation announcement.  The pope, a German formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said he is leaving on February 28 because his advancing age is making it difficult to carry out his duties.

Lombardi said Pope Benedict will publicly say farewell to Roman Catholics on February 27, a day before his formal resignation.

VOA correspondent Al Pessin in Vatican City said people in St. Peter's Square are still trying to come to terms with the pontiff's abrupt announcement.

"There was still a fair amount of shock," he said. "People could just not believe that the pope had resigned. They had obviously never experienced anything like this since it had not happened in nearly 600 years and they had never considered it. I think a lot of people did not think it was possible, weren't aware of the canon law that allows the pope to resign. So, there was still a lot of shock."

Pessin said people are beginning to form opinions in terms of what they would like to see in the next pope.

"People, I think, are hoping for a more vigorous pope, which probably means a somewhat younger man. Some of the candidates are in their late 50's and early 60's -- people who have been talked about for the job. So, people are looking forward to having energy in the job."
 
Pope Frontrunners for Now
(Source: Reuters)

While there are no official candidates, here are the "papabili,'' potential popes, most frequently mentioned recently. The list is in alphabetical order.

  • Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil, 65) brought fresh air to the  Vatican department for religious congregations when he took over in 2011. He supports the preference for the poor in Latin America's liberation theology, but not the excesses of its advocates.
  • Timothy Dolan, (USA, 62) became the voice of U.S. Catholicism after being named archbishop of New York in 2009. His humour and dynamism have impressed the Vatican, where both are often missing.
  • Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68) is effectively the Vatican's top staff director as head of the Congregation for Bishops. He once said becoming pope "would be a nightmare.''
  • Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy, 70) has been Vatican culture  minister since 2007 and represents the Church to the worlds of art, science, culture and even to atheists.
  • Leonardo Sandri (Argentina, 69) is a "transatlantic'' figure born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents. He held the third-highest Vatican post as its chief of staff in 2000-2007.
  • Odilo Pedro Scherer (Brazilia, 63) ranks as Latin America's strongest candidate. He's Archbishop of Sao Paolo, largest diocese in the largest Catholic country.
  • Christoph Schoenborn (Austria, 67) is a former student of Pope Benedict with a pastoral touch the pontiff lacks. The Vienna archbishop has ranked as papal material since editing the Church catechism in the 1990s.
  • Angelo Scola (Italy, 71) is archbishop of Milan, a springboard to the papacy, and is many Italians' bet to win. An expert on bioethics, he also knows Islam as head of a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding.
  • Luis Tagle (Philippines, 55) has a charisma often compared to that of the late Pope John Paul. He is also close to Pope Benedict after working with him at the International Theological Commission.
  • Peter Turkson (Ghana, 64) is the top African candidate. Head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau, he is spokesman for the Church's social conscience and backs world financial reform.
The Vatican publicly acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that the 85-year-old pontiff has a pacemaker.

Lombardi said it had been installed "some time ago" and that its batteries had been replaced three months ago.

Pope Benedict's health has visibly weakened in his eight years as head of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the shortest papal terms in modern history.  A pope's travel schedule can be taxing, and his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, has told reporters the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to make any more transatlantic trips.

Pope Benedict's rule has been tainted by a child sex abuse scandal that began long before he ascended to the papacy. Last year, he faced a new scandal when his butler was found to be the source of leaked documents alleging corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.  Pope Benedict also has been criticized for inflexibility on Church dogmas.

In contrast, he has received praise for instituting a financial watchdog over the Vatican's financial dealings and becoming the first pope to communicate with followers via social media.

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