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Cardinal Tagle a future 'papal contender' — Vatican observer

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, installed as a cardinal by the pope only last November, could be Pope one day, according to a prominent Vatican observer. On Monday, 85-year-old German-born Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign on February 28, making him the first pope to do so in centuries. A Reuters report on Tuesday noted that Tagle 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. While he has many fans, he only became a cardinal in 2012 and conclaves are wary of young candidates.   While there are no official candidates, Reuters said the "papabili" (potential popes) are:   - 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. Possible drawbacks include his low profile.   - Timothy Dolan, (USA, 62) became the voice of US Catholicism after being named archbishop of New York in 2009. His humor and dynamism have impressed the Vatican, where both are often missing. But cardinals are wary of a "superpower pope" and his back-slapping style may be too American for some.   - 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." Though well connected within the Curia, the widespread secularism of his native Quebec could work against him.   - 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. This profile could hurt him if cardinals decide they need an experienced pastor rather than another professor as pope.   - 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. But he has no pastoral experience and his job overseeing eastern churches is not a power position in Rome.   - Odilo Pedro Scherer (Brazil, 63) ranks as Latin America's strongest candidate. Archbishop of Sao Paulo, largest diocese in the largest Catholic country, he is conservative in his country but would rank as a moderate elsewhere. The rapid growth of Protestant churches in Brazil could count against him.   - 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. But some cautious reform stands and strong dissent by some Austrian priests could hurt him.   - 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. His dense oratory could put off cardinals seeking a charismatic communicator.   - 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. He showed a video criticizing Muslims at a recent Vatican synod, raising doubts about how he sees Islam. Reuters said the list will probably change between now and when the conclave is held, most likely in March. Depends on 'who the cardinals know' Meanwhile, as much as retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz hopes for a Filipino pope, of which Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is the only candidate, he said the situation on the ground depends on who the cardinals know. “Now, to be very realistic about it on the ground reality ang ihahalal ko kung ako’y cardinal yung kilala ko: kilala ko ang ugali, kilala ko ang kaisipan, kilala ko ang karunungan, kakayahan. e yun pong nagkakakila-kilala karaniwan yun ay nasa isang bansa ‘pagkat madalas sila magtipon,” Cruz said in an interview on GMA News TV’s "News to Go" on Tuesday. “Ang ‘problema’ quote unquote po na bagaman puwedeng maging papa si Archbishop Cardinal Tagle e isa siyang Pilipino,” he also said, noting that while Pope Benedict XVI knows Tagle, other cardinals do not. However, Cruz still made known his hope for a Filipino pope. “But I hope we will have a pope soon. who knows?” he said. In the interview, Cruz also shared his insights on the process of choosing the next pope, which he said “in a way” was sort of a “old boys network” because it depends on who the cardinals know. “Bawal ang mag-meeting so pag nasa Roma sila tig-isa sila ng kwarto...Lalabas sila para kumain, babalik sa kwarto, pero wala yung sabi nga e ‘tayo-tayo lang, meeting meeting,” Cruz said. “Nag-uusap sila (during mealtimes) pero never, never, never about who they will elect, never,” he also said, which means the factor of who they choose as the next pope could already depend on who they know before voting. Papal contender Journalist John Allen Jr. of the United States-based National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has written extensively about the possible popes. In May last year, he wrote about eleven contenders he grouped into “concentric circles of plausibility” as front-runners, possibilities and long shots. He listed Tagle as a long shot. “My experience is that pretty much everybody agrees on the top two names on this list, Cardinals Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet, but after that things get murkier,” Allen wrote. Even in 2011, when Tagle was not yet a cardinal, Allen already wrote that the Filipino priest was not only "a rising star in the Asian Church" but also a "papal contender." Tagle is known to go around the communities he serves on a "cheap bike." On his blog on the NCR in October 2011, Allen said "a striking number of people who know Tagle believe that this is a guy who, one day, could be pope." A gifted communicator In a more recent article, he again mentioned Tagle and Nigeria’s 68-year-old Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan. Allen said these two  “impressed” some of their colleagues in last year’s Synod of Bishops. In the same article, Allen had described Tagle as a "gifted communicator" and "a key point of reference for Catholicism in Asia, the go-to figure within the Asian bishops' conference on most theological questions." Allen also quoted Italian journalist Enzo Romeo who followed the Vatileaks scandal and enumerated 12 contenders. Tagle was not on Romeo’s list. The Italian contenders in Romeo’s eyes are Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops' conference, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The non-Italians on Allen’s list are: - Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; - Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria; - Cardinal Peter Erdö of Budapest, Hungary; - Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France; - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; - Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil; - Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and - Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" No Italian pope in decades The Catholic Church has not had an Italian pope in decades. Archibishop Karol Wojtyla from Poland broke the centuries-old Italian grip on the papacy and took the name Pope John Paul II. The Italians were still kept away the papal throne when Pope John Paul II's successor, Germany’s aged Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was chosen eight years ago. Reporting on the Synod of Bishops, Allen said, “Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, widely considered a rising star among the Asian bishops, said for the church to be a place where people meet God, it needs to learn three things from the example of Jesus: humility, respect for others, and silence.” "The church must discover the power of silence," Allen quoted Tagle as saying.  "Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people, she cannot pretend to give easy solutions. In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth," Tagle said. Tagle’s presentation "had a certain resonance" according to Allen who quoted Irish Fr. Eamonn Conway, a theologian and an expert adviser to the synod. Pope Benedict's apostolic letter The voting cardinals will most likely choose the next pope from among themselves although technically any baptized male Catholic can be chosen pope. In June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic letter where he restored the papal election threshold to two-thirds majority of the cardinals eligible to vote. As there are 118 Cardinal electors, the votes needed to elect the next pope would be no more than 79. The papal election vote threshold would be slightly lower depending on who are present at the conclave. Cardinals who are candidates for pope do not vote. It was the same two-thirds threshold that prevailed when then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected eight years ago after the death of Pope John Paul II, who lowered it to a simple majority of the voting cardinals. Pope Benedict added two more provisions in case of a persistent deadlock in the secret balloting during the papal conclave. He decreed in the apostolic letter that the cardinals will pause for a day of prayer and dialogue. He also limited the next balloting after the one-day voting respite to the top two contenders. This election mode is called a runoff election in some countries where multi-party parliamentary systems are at work. - with reports from Reuters/Gian C. Geronimo, VVP, GMA News