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Papal candidates with a Latin flavor

NCR Staff

Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American prelates, members of the “Iberian-Latin American” bloc in the College of Cardinals, who might emerge as papabile: candidates for the next pope:

Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga: Rodríguez Maradiaga, 58, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is widely seen as a rising star in the Latin American church. He served as president of CELAM, the federation of Latin American bishops’ conferences, until 1999, and is well-known across the region. A Salesian, he speaks near-perfect Italian (along with English). He is seen as articulate and passionate on justice issues. He was part of a small group that met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a meeting of major economic powers in Cologne to hand over the Jubilee 2000 petition for debt relief. “Neoliberal capitalism carries injustice and inequality in its genetic code,” he said at a 1995 CELAM meeting. Rodrídguez Maradiaga is, however, seen as a conservative on theological issues. He is relatively young, which works against him, since many observers believe the cardinals will not want a repeat of John Paul’s long papacy.

José da Cruz Policarpo: The patriarch of Lisbon, Policarpo, 64, is not widely known outside the Portuguese-speaking world, but that may change with his Feb. 21 elevation to the rank of cardinal. If so, people may like what they hear. Policarpo has a reputation as a theological moderate and has good academic credentials, having served as rector of Lisbon’s Catholic University. Last September, Lisbon hosted an international interreligious conference in the wake of Dominus Iesus, the Vatican document that asserted non-Catholics are in a “gravely deficient” position. Policarpo defused a potentially explosive situation by decrying “fundamentalist intransigence whereby the defense of our ‘truths’ becomes a focus of disunion.” He also led a powerful liturgy of sorrow for the Inquisition at the central Dominican basilica in Lisbon. It was a bravura performance. If the Iberian-Latin American block wants a moderate who can unite the church, Policarpo could emerge as a consensus candidate.

Dario Castrillon Hoyos: For some time, conventional wisdom has held that if a Latin American is to become pope, Castrillon Hoyos, 71 and a Colombian, is the strongest candidate. Currently head of the Vatican office for clergy, Castrillon Hoyos served as secretary general of CELAM from 1983 to 1991. As a pastor, Castrillon Hoyos earned high marks for defense of the poor, including his willingness to challenge drug barons. Yet he was also one of the fiercest opponents of liberation theology, an effort among progressive Latin American Catholics to place the church on the side of progressive social movements. In 1986, he said of Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff: “Boff will have to ask God to forgive him, and when God answers, then the pope and I will know whether to forgive him or not.” Castrillon Hoyos has the distinction of having been elegized by one of the 20th century’s foremost novelists, Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who once described him as “this rustic man with the profile of an eagle.”

Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino: Ortega, 64 and the archbishop of Havana since 1981, has earned respect for his cautious defiance of Cuba’s communist regime. He is seen as a deft conciliator between the notoriously divided Cuban exile community and Cubans who stayed behind after the communist revolution. He spent 1967 in one of Castro’s labor camps during a period of national history Cuban Catholics call “the silencing of God.” He has said he feels “very close to the pontificate of John Paul II.” Some observers believe that fellow Latin American cardinals may promote his candidacy as a way to signal support of the Cuban church, while others feel the parallels with Karol Wojtyla and Catholicism behind the Iron Curtain are simply too obvious.

Norberto Rivera Carrera: Like other Latin American churchmen, Rivera Carrera, 58, of Mexico is a strong advocate of social justice. His criticism of globalization and political corruption so annoyed the Salinas government that it threatened to adopt a law forbidding priests from commenting on politics. He is strong-willed. He won a 1996 showdown with an abbot who ran the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who had publicly questioned the historical truth of Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego. Although the abbot had been appointed for life by John XXIII, Rivera Carrera succeeded in forcing him to resign. The cardinal is known as a conservative on church matters. In 1990, as bishop of Tehuac, he closed a seminary that he charged was teaching “Marxist” theology. The central problem in classifying him with papabile is his age. Rivera Carrera was not ordained until 1966, a year after Vatican II ended.

National Catholic Reporter, February 2, 2001