Irish bookmakers have ranked Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada as favorites among the papabili (literally “pope-ables”). Has Cardinal Turkson already blown his chances by saying that he would be happy to take the job? Is New York’s Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan out of the running because he is, well, an American? Such are the speculations of “papabili watching” as the conclave that will elect the new pope approaches in March.
If you would prefer to let your reason, rather than an Irish bookie, be your guide, here are some short bios of the leading candidates for the job.
Cardinal Angelo Scola (Italian, born Nov. 7, 1941). Archbishop of Milan since 2011, Cardinal Scola, a respected theologian, was patriarch of Venice, where he earned a reputation as an energetic pastor, raising the church’s profile in the civil arena. He was created a cardinal in 2003. In 2004 he started Oasis, an international foundation that serves as a forum for dialogue and a bridge of support for Catholics in the Middle East.
The son of a socialist truck driver, Cardinal Scola took to his assignment in Venice with relish, visiting local communities in an effort to help restore the parish as a spiritual and social meeting ground. Cardinal Scola has argued that if the church wants to reach people where they live, it has to move out of the sacristy and into all sectors of civil society. “As Christians,” he said, “that means we must have the courage to show our face, to say what freedom really is...and to propose to civil society an ideal of the good life.”
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer (Brazilian, born Sept. 21, 1949). Archbishop of São Paulo since 2007, Cardinal Scherer was born of German ancestry in São Francisco, Cerro Longo, Brazil. He studied philosophy and theology at Rome’s Pontifical Brazilian College and the Pontifical Gregorian University and worked as an official for the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops from 1994 to 2001. Ordained in 1976, he served as pastor in the Diocese of Toledo in Brazil. He taught and served as rector at a number of seminaries and religious institutes in southern Brazil. Cardinal Scherer has expressed concern about a “silent flight of the faithful” because of a lack of religious formation and instruction about the church.
Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghanaian, born Oct. 11, 1948). Cardinal Turkson was born in Western Ghana to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father who worked as a carpenter, the fourth child among 10 children. He attended a seminary in New York State and was ordained in 1975. In 1992 Turkson was appointed archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II and served as president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1997 to 2005. He was created a cardinal, Ghana’s first, at John Paul II’s last consistory in October 2003. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. That position has afforded him prominence but also led him into some controversy.
In a council document released in October 2011, Cardinal Turkson called for solidarity between rich and poor nations, a global authority to govern international finance and for the taxation of global transactions that could produce revenue to help alleviate poverty. He has called on Wall Street financiers to “do business differently...because this is not leading to our welfare and our good.” An accomplished polyglot, Turkson speaks English, Fante, French, Italian, German and Hebrew, in addition to understanding Latin and Greek.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P. (Austrian, born Jan. 22, 1945). Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn studied at Regensburg, Germany, under then Father Joseph Ratzinger after joining the Dominican order in 1963. Cardinal Schönborn succeeded Cardinal Hans Herman Groer in September 1995 after Groer’s resignation amid allegations of sexual abuse. Born the second of four children in a noble family, Cardinal Schönborn has not shied away from controversy. In 1996 he said in an interview on Austrian television that a person with AIDS might use a condom as a “lesser evil,” and in 2009 he criticized the pope’s lifting of an excommunication order on Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier, of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. In March 2010 his spokesman had to issue a clarification after Cardinal Schönborn called for priestly celibacy to be re-examined in the light of recent abuse scandals. In 2011 he grappled with an Austrian priests’ initiative that urged women clergy, “priestless eucharistic liturgies” and Communion for non-Catholics and remarried divorcees.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, S.S.P. (Canadian, born June 8, 1944). The former archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Ouellet has headed the Congregation for Bishops, the powerful Vatican office that oversees the appointment of the world’s bishops, since June 2010. Cardinal Ouellet is a disciple of Pope Benedict’s theological views and is considered a top advisor to the pope. Most recently he was called to help out in the wake of the “VatiLeaks” scandal related to the release of documents that detailed corruption and incompetence in the running of the Roman Curia. He once said becoming pope “would be a nightmare.” In June 2012, representing the pope, Cardinal Ouellet met with Irish survivors of clerical sexual abuse; and in February of that year, he led a solemn penitential service with 10 other bishops in which they asked forgiveness for failing to protect children and for serving instead as an “instrument of evil against them.”
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (Filipino, born June 21, 1957). If elected, Cardinal Tagle, now archbishop of Manila, would be the youngest pope in centuries. He impressed many of his fellow bishops during the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome when he called for a more humble church that put more effort into listening to its flock. Cardinal Tagle has also taken a strong approach to the sexual abuse crisis, warning his fellow bishops from Asia that they must not dismiss it as a Western phenomenon. At a conference in Rome in 2012 on the crisis, he advised fellow bishops, “We do not need to wait for a bomb to explode. Preventing it from exploding is the best response.”
Other papabili include: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of Brazil, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of the United States, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., of Honduras, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa and head of Caritas Internationalis; and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 24, 2013
An earlier version of this article misidentified the country of Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. He is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, not Guatemala.