Pope's successor might be from global south, first black pontiff

News of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement Monday has triggered speculation on who his successor might be, and the list of likely candidates point to the next pontiff possibly coming from the global south.

Over a third of the 117 cardinals who will gather in March in a secret conclave to elect the next pope come from Latin America, Africa and Asia, while more than half are from European countries. The cardinals who vote for Benedict's successor will also be eligible for the job.

Who is the frontrunner to becoming the next pope? It depends on who you ask.

The Vatican Insider, a website run by Italian newspaper La Stampa that covers Vatican news, has posted a list of the most likely candidates to get elected pope:

• Austrian Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna
• Italian Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan
• Filipino Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila
• American Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
• Brazilian-born German Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo
• French Canadian Marc Ouellet, present prefect of theCongregation for Bishops
• Italian Gianfranco Ravas, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
• Argentinian Leonardo Sandri, former spokesman for spokesman for Pope Juan Pablo II
• Frenchman Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the    Roman Curia
• Ghanian Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

(Photo: Reuters / Osservatore Romano)Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory at the Vatican February 11, 2013. The pontiff said Monday he will resign on Feb 28 because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office.

Tom Heneghan, the Religion Editor Reuters news agency, which published a similar list of top contenders, pointed to Scherer and Sandri as the frontrunners from Latin America. The region, Heneghan points out, represents 42 percent of the Roman Catholic Church's 1.2 billion members, compared to 25 percent in Europe.

(Photo: Reuters / Max Rossi)Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson

Turkson is the top pick from Africa, according to several reports, and would be the first black pope.

Randall Woodard, the managing editor of the International Journal of African Catholicism, told CNN Belief Blog that Turkson has experience working with people of different faiths and "would be able to respond to global needs and ... the reality of what the face of Catholicism is."

However, William Hill, the world's largest bookmaker, is placing the odds in favor of Francis Arinze from Nigeria as the leading candidate from Africa. The bookmaker says the odds of Arinze being named the new pope is 2-1, while Turkson's odds are at 5-2.

Based on the geographic shifts of Catholicism, "a lot of smart money would be on Africa or Central America," said Woodard.

Tagle is the frontrunner from Asia, where the number of Catholics and priests continue to grow.

At the current time, of the118 cardinals under the age of 80 (the cut off for being elected pope and joining voting group to elect the pope), 28 are from Italy, 34 hail from Europe, 19 are from Latin America, 14 are from the United States and Canada, 11 are from Asia, 11 are from Africa and 1 is from Australia. One cardinal will turn 80 this month making him ineligible to join the secret conclave.

Boston College theology professor Stephen Pope said the Pope Benedict's successor will probably be a Vatican insider.

"The people voting for the pope like to know the pope," he told the Boston Globe. "The chances of getting elected [are increased] if they know you, if you've worked in Rome, in the Vatican, and they have seen you off-duty, and they know you personally."

Pope Benedict, who is 85 years old, announced his resignation Monday citing his "advanced age" and ailing health. He is the first pontiff to step down in 600 years, breaking tradition of the pope serving until death.
"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," the pope said in statement, which he read in Italian.

A Vatican spokesman said the pope would officially end his duties from 1900 GMT on February 28, leaving the office vacant until a successor is chosen.

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