John Paul II is in hospital and many have gathered around the plaza assuming that this may be his last call. Don't bet on it. He's a sturdy man. While he looks frail - Parkinson's, continued inflammation of his injuries from the attempted assassination, IBS and other problems do this to you - his basic physiological system (heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate) is strong. Its because he was having problems breathing that he was taken to hospital - my bet is he'll be back.
In fact, John Paul II could easily become the longest serving Pope in history, after Saint Peter. Saint Peter is said to have served in this role for 34 years (or 37, depending on which biography one is looking at) and the next longest serving Pope was Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) who served for thirty one years, seven months and 22 days, finally leaving us on February 7th 1878.
The race is on for the next Pope. The bookmakers are taking bets (see www.paddypower.com) and there are several cardinals in the race:
- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (77) Germany. Seen by many as the Deputy Pope, the 77 year old cardinal has emerged as a front runner for the papacy. A hard liner, very strongly supportive of John Pauls Catholicism, he is currently head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith what used to be known as the Inquisition and in this role is to police the doctrinal practices of the Church. He is also Dean of the College of Cardinals the most senior of all the Cardinals in terms of rank (Cardinal Bishop since 1997)
- Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (71) Italy (Milan). The Archbishop of Milan and the favoured Italian for succession - considered a conservative moral theologian, the cardinal agrees with the pope's views on birth control and sexual matters. Born March 14, 1934, north of Milan, Italy, he was ordained at age 23 and became a cardinal at 63. He spent 32 years teaching future priests or running seminaries in Milan and Rome. One interesting fact: in 2002 he accepted an Honorary degree from the Opus Dei University of the Holy Cross signaling his radical conservatism. (Cardinal since 1978)
- Cardinal Claudio Hummes (71), Brazil. Theologically conservative, but engaged in confronting poverty and other social problems, the Franciscan archbishop of San Paulo is considered one of the strongest Latin American candidates. (Cardinal Priest since 2001)
- Cardinal Francis Arinze (73) Nigeria. The head of the Vatican Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Cardinal Arinze is the strongest African candidate. Personable and theologically conservative, Arinze has shown great loyalty to the current pope. But many cardinals are skeptical of a pontiff from Africa, where Catholicism has relatively shallow roots. (Cardinal Priest since 1985)
- Cardinal Godfried Danneels (72), Belgium. A brilliant and widely-respected theologian, Cardinal Danneels is seen as a unifying figure acceptable to both conservatives and progressives within the College of Cardinals. (Cardinal Priest since 1983)
- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re (70), Italy. A theological moderate with unparalleled skills as an administrator, Cardinal Re is regarded in some quarters as a perfect transitional figure. But his experience has been almost entirely within the Vatican (as under Secretary of State), which may hurt his candidacy. His chances would improve if he serves as an archbishop before the next conclave. He is currently Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Two different bookmakers, however, (Paddypower.com and Oddschecker.com) both place him in the top five. (Cardinal Bishop since 2001)
- Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega Y Alamino (68), Cuba. The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Ortega has kept the church alive in defiance of Cuba's communist regime. Many see parallels with John Paul II, whom he has closely supported. (Cardinal Priest since 1994)
- Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (63), Honduras. The personable archbishop of Tegucigalpa has long been seen as a rising star. His youth and a recent outburst against US press coverage of the Catholic sex scandals and his open suggestion that John Paul II should abdicate probably weakened his candidacy. He has only been a Cardinal Priest since 2002.
- Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (76) , Colombia. Favourite of arch conservatives, Cardinal Castrillon is the head of the Vatican office of the clergy. A defender of traditional doctrine, he's taken a bold stance against his country's powerful drug lords. (Cardinal Deacon since 1998)
- Cardinal Walter Kasper (73), Germany. Favourite of progressives, Cardinal Kasper is a intellectual heavyweight who's advocated decentralization of the church, reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, and a more lenient stance towards divorced Catholics. Kasper, currently head of ecumenical affairs for the Vatican, may not fit the profile of a "transitional" pope. (Cardinal Deacon since 2001)
My money is on Tettamanzi. Interestingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a 5000-1 bet - at least he is Catholic.
My other money is on John Paul surviving his current bout if "flu" (sic). I too hope to survive my current pains.