Indonesian Cardinal Darmaatmadja arrives for the general congregation meeting in Vatican City
Jerry Lampen  /  Reuters
Indonesian Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja arrives for the general congregation meeting in Vatican City on Monday.
updated 4/12/2005 9:00:30 AM ET 2005-04-12T13:00:30

Recalling that Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla made almost no top-contender lists the last time a pope was chosen, prognosticators this time are casting a wide net — along with a dozen front-runners, cardinals from Cuba, Canada, India, even Indonesia have been mentioned.

Though some of the dark-horse candidates are from Europe, many others are from elsewhere — and would be the first pope from their continent.

At a time when the Vatican is trying to broaden its dialogue with Islam, Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, 70, of Indonesia, is distinctive as one of the few cardinals from a predominantly Muslim country. Ivan Dias, 68, the archbishop of Bombay, India, also comes from a populous country with relatively few Catholics, though much of his career has been spent as a Vatican diplomat, serving in Africa, South Korea and Albania.

Wilfrid Fox Napier, 64, a black South African, was a low-key opponent of apartheid during the era of white-minority rule and more recently has questioned Vatican efforts to limit the decision-making of local bishops. Most experts, however, rate Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze as Africa’s only serious candidate.

Slim North American chances
Two cardinals from Canada have been mentioned in some circles, though the prospects for a North American pope seem slim.

Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec City, is relatively young for a contender, at 60, but has taught and studied in Europe and South America. Both he and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal have spoken forcefully against Canada’s moves to legalize same-sex marriage.

There are a raft of contenders — some front-runners, some long-shots — to be the first Latin American pope. The region’s dark horses include Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the archbishop of Havana, who helped organize the first papal visit to Communist Cuba in 1998 and negotiated modest openings with a government that was once officially atheist.

Ortega, 68, his risen far from humble origins as a sugar worker’s son. He is fluent in French and a skilled pianist, cutting an elegant and generally nonconfrontational figure in Cuban society.

Roughly half of the dozen or so front-runners are from Europe, and so are many of the next group of contenders. Among them is German Cardinal Walter Kasper, 72, who has headed the Vatican’s office for relations with Jews and its campaign of outreach to other Christian denominations.

Last year, Kasper led a Vatican delegation to Moscow seeking to improve relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. He also was dispatched by Pope John Paul II to a ceremony at Rome’s main synagogue that was viewed as a milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations.

Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Portugal is mentioned as a possible contender if his colleagues are seeking someone who could bridge a possible Europe-Latin America divide.

The other Europeans
Italy supplies at least three front-running candidates, but also several in the next rung, including Cardinals Ennio Antonelli of Florence, Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, and Severino Poletto of Turin.

Bertone, 70, occasionally provides radio play-by-play of his favorite soccer team, Juventus; a few weeks ago he made headlines worldwide by urging a boycott of the best-selling book “The Da Vinci Code,” which he said distorts the origins of Christianity.

Antonelli, 68, is viewed a cheerful man of the people, a relative moderate on most of the issues facing the Vatican. Poletto, 72, is custodian of the Shroud of Turin

Two French cardinals are sometimes mentioned: Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who is only 55 and known as an advocate for immigrants’ rights, and retired Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, a confidant of John Paul’s, a Jewish convert — and a skeptic about lists of front-runners.

“All the names that have surfaced have been invented by journalists,” he said last week. “What happens is that most of the time, those who get it are completely unexpected.”

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