Two African cardinals and a Canadian are being tipped to replace Pope Benedict XVI who indicated yesterday that he is resigning as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church on February 28 for health and age related reasons.
The Guardian.co.uk yesterday listed 26 contenders for the Pope's replacement but speculated that three of them; Nigeria's Francis Cardinal Arinze, Ghana's Peter Cardinal Kodwo Turkson and Canada's Cardinal Marc Quellet are top on the list.
Arinze had been touted as papabile since before Pope John Paul II and was a leading candidate to be elected in 2005, but Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was elected.
Now 80, Arinze born on November, 1932 hails from eastern Nigeria. He was made cardinal in 1985 and is known for his tolerance of elements of traditional worship in Catholic mass.
Peter Turkson, 64, was born on 11 October 1948 in Nsuta-Wassaw, a mining hub in Ghana's western region, to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father. He studied and taught in New York and Rome, before being ordained into the priesthood in 1975 and appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast - the former colonial capital of Ghana and a key diocese - in 1992.
Marc Ouellet, a French-Canadian, has also been linked with the papacy in the past, especially since being appointed the head of the Congregation of Bishops, which appoints bishops throughout the world.
Born in 1944 in rural Quebec, he was appointed Archbishop of Quebec in 2002 and made cardinal a year later. He attracted controversy in 2010 when he addressed an anti-abortion conference in Quebec City, saying that terminating a pregnancy was a "moral crime".
But when asked on the possibility of an African Pope taking over, spokesman of the Nigerian Catholic Bishops Conference Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo said: "It is time for brilliant and speculative minds to decipher who will be the next Pope. It is normal for Africans to expect an African Pope just as it is normal for the Europeans, Americans, Asians and the rest of the world to do so. They each have equal rights to aspire to become Pope."
He described the process of electing a new head of the church as very transparent and one which will be done through the guidance of prayers and the Holy Spirit. "All eligible persons have equal chances to be named Pope," he said.
Pope Benedict said yesterday he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with his ministry, in an announcement that left his aides "incredulous" and will make him the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages, Reuters news agency reported yesterday.
The German-born Pope, 85, hailed as a hero by conservative Roman Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, told cardinals in Latin that his strength had deteriorated recently.
He will step down on February 28 and the Vatican expects a new Pope to be chosen by the end of March. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 78 in April 2005 after succeeding Pope John Paul II, the Pope's decision to resign is very unusual as the majority of incumbents die in office. He is the first Pope to resign in 600 years.
The Pontiff said his health is 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age' in a decision that shocked even his closest aides.
Announcing his resignation in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals early yesterday, Pope Benedict said: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me."
He said he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was 'fully aware of the gravity of this gesture'. A Vatican spokesman said he will officially retire at 8pm Rome time (7pm GMT) on February 28. A cardinal who was at the meeting said: 'We listened with a sense of incredulity as His Holiness told us of his decision to step down from the church that he so loves.'
Born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927, Ratzinger was a leading theology professor and then archbishop of Munich before taking over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. In that office, Ratzinger disciplined Latin American 'liberation theology' theologians, denounced homosexuality and gay marriage and pressured Asian priests who saw non-Christian religions as part of God's plan for humanity.
Ratzinger was the oldest cardinal to be named pope since Clement XII, who was also 78 when he became pope in 1730. He is the first German pope since Victor II (1055-1057). Pope Gregory XII was the last pope who resigned when he quit in 1415 during the Western Schism when three people claimed the papal throne. They were Roman Pope Gregory XII, Avignon Pope Benedict XIII and Antipope John XXIII.
The Pope's brother reportedly said the Pontiff was told by his doctor not to take transatlantic trips for health reasons. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: 'It's taken us a bit by surprise. We've had to organise ourselves very quickly.'
How a Pope is elected
Roman Catholic cardinals seeking a successor to Pope Benedict XVI will hold a conclave to elect a new pontiff. Only cardinals are eligible to take part in the conclave, which will continue until a successor is chosen.
The cardinals will meet in the Vatican's ornate Sistine Chapel and hold two voting rounds a day until they choose a new pope with a two-thirds majority.
They were traditionally locked into the Chapel, best known for the frescoed ceiling and altar wall painted by Michelangelo, and not allowed out until they chose a new pontiff.
They had to sleep in makeshift cells and share minimal sanitary facilities.
But new regulations issued by Pope John Paul II in 1996 allow them to live in a new hotel built on Vatican grounds behind St. Peter's Basilica and even take walks in the tiny state's peaceful gardens between their voting rounds.
Another reform lets the cardinals opt for a simple majority vote if they have not succeeded in electing a pope after about two weeks of balloting.
Most modern conclaves have lasted only a few days. When the cardinals are in agreement, the chosen one will say 'Accepto,' a puff of white smoke will emerge from the chimney, bells will toll and a cardinal will appear at the central window of St Peter's Basilica to declare 'Habemus papam' - 'We have a pope'.
Nigeria's Catholic Secretariat rules out political pressure in Pope's resignation
THE Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) yesterday said Pope Benedict XVI resigned on reasons of "old age and failing strength, and not for any particular kind of terminal illness, moral or legal guilt or political pressure."
Secretary General of the CSN, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, said even though the information came "as shocking and unexpected piece of information" it is a privilege which the Pope is entitled to."
"The law requires that for the resignation of the Pontiff to be valid, it has to be freely made and properly manifested but it does not require the acceptance of anybody or group to be effective. Some Pope had resigned in the past," Fr. Madu stressed.
Speaking with Daily Trust, he said, "It came to all of us as shocking, unexpected, as you would expect, but not totally strange," he stated.
Fr. Madu said: "The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning for reasons of old age and failing strength, and not for any particular kind of terminal illness, moral or legal guilt or political pressure for that matter.
"You realize that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome by his Venerable Brother Cardinal Electors at the Conclave in Rome on the 16th of April, 2005 and he took the name Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 78.
"Before then he had worked in the Vatican Curia as the head of the strategic and tasking Congregation of Doctrine of Faith for 25 years during the Pontificate of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II. He is a man who has spent many tortuous years in the administration of the Church at very demanding levels.
"Therefore it is not strange that he should 'wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer. We said that it is not strange because following the tenets of the laws and practices of the Catholic Church; Popes had resigned in the past.
"Pope Celestine V who died in 1296, had resigned two years earlier in 1294 and Pope Gregory XII also resigned in 1415.
"The current code of canon law promulgated in 1983 (canon 332 para. 2), also makes allowance for the resignation by the Roman Pontiff from the exercise of the Petrine ministry. That privilege is what the Holy Father has appropriated today (yesterday).
"Therefore, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, elected 16th and installed 19th April, 2005, has resigned from the office of the Pope, effective 20.00 hours 28th February, 2013.
"The Cardinal Electors will be invited to the Conclave in Rome at a later date in March to elect a successor," he said.
With Agency Report