March 12, 2013

Meet the 20 men who could be pope

As the papal conclave begins in Rome, wrapped in mystery and secrecy, there is no indication that the 115 cardinals will be deciding between just a couple of front-runners in choosing a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

Milan's Cardinal Angelo Scola and Brazil's Cardinal Odilo Scherer are names that keep cropping up on the lists of papabili, but NBC News Vatican analyst George Weigel says no fewer than 20 men could get votes when balloting starts Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel.

They come from the traditional bastions of Italy, from growth areas like sub-Saharan Africa, even from the United States. Only time — and a puff of white smoke — will reveal which one will emerge as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the princes of the church who Weigel says could be considered for the top job:
 
 
Angelo Bagnasco: The archbishop of Genoa, he also heads the influential conference of Italian bishops. Considered an intellectual heavyweight with a teaching background in metaphysics, he was described as a "pragmatic centrist" by the National Catholic Reporter. Bagnasco, 70, received death threats after hard-line remarks against same-sex marriages in 2007.
 

Jorge Mario Bergoglio: The archbishop of Buenos Aires is the Argentine-born son of an Italian railway worker. Seen as a compassionate conservative, he reportedly came in second during the 2005 balloting that ultimately elected Benedict XVI. The 76-year-old Jesuit prizes simplicity and humility and would encourage priests to do shoe-leather evangelization, his biographer says.

 
Giuseppe Betori: The archbishop of Florence, he has been a cardinal for just a year. As secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference, he "built a reputation for himself as a 'bridge builder' in relations between the Vatican and the Italian government," the Italian daily La Stampa reported. Betori, 66, survived a 2011 assassination attempt by an emotionally disturbed person.
 

Thomas Collins: The archbishop of Toronto was made a cardinal last year. A biblical scholar, he told an Italian newspaper that the biggest challenge facing the church is persecution in an increasingly secular society. Known for his media savvy and rousing sermons, Collins, 66, helped investigate the sex-abuse crisis in Ireland and sits on a Vatican council on education.

 
Timothy Dolan: The ebullient archbishop of New York is among the best-known cardinals in America and heads the important U.S. bishops conference. Dolan, 69, doesn't run from political controversy or the cameras. The Vatican has been impressed with his dynamic style, conservative chops and missionary zeal, but others may be wary of his effervescence.
 
To view the complete list go here.

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