Vatican City

American cardinals 'working' for non-european pope

Group seeking allies, slower selection process to find candidate

American cardinals 'working' for non-european pope

(By Nina Fabrizio) Vatican City, March 6 - The conflicting approach to communications which has emerged over the past few days among the cardinals gathered in Rome ahead of the conclave is largely a result of the activity by North American ''electors'', who are looking for a non-European candidate to take the papacy. In these days of pre-conclave 'general congregations', the American cardinals are moving decisively in this direction, according to informed sources. The American cardinals are working on finding common ground with the Latin Americans and looking for a way to involve the Africans too. In secret meetings taking place outside the official congregation sessions, North American and Brazilian cardinals are talking, with the aim of ''sealing'' an alliance to find a candidate to offer in opposition to a possible candidate presented by a European front, molded around the Curia, the Vatican's Rome-based central administration. The College of Cardinal's diktat its members to hold a media silence, which led to the ending of the daily briefings by the American cardinals, is also - according to people in the know - the result of a net divide that has formed among cardinals. The Americans are determined to stop Benedict XVI's successor being an Italian or European, believing that Europe is no longer able to produce a pope focused on renovation and modernity. The origin of this attitude has much to do with resentment felt towards the Curia's management of recent years and bitterness towards matters that the Americans consider ''unclear''. The Americans repeatedly, during the daily press briefings, declared their desire to know the contents of the ''poisonous'' dossiers of the VatiLeaks case. They do not seem totally convinced that Benedict resigned purely for age and health reasons. It's not a coincidence that in the United States, the reference point for the local bishops conference is the nuncio Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano', someone who knows the Vatican's inside stories and ended up as the heart of the Vatileaks scandal - better than most. It seems that for his role in trying to put an end to a series of opaque practices, he was denied the much sought-after presidency of the Vatican Governorate and was ''promoted'' with a job that sent him away as an ambassador to the U.S. Despite their maneuvering, the Americans have not yet produced a candidate name, and for this reason they are among those calling for more time in the selection process. The ideal for this group, which has 11 votes, is to find a candidate from the Americas, but not necessarily one from the United States. They know all too well that a US candidate would not stand much of a chance - the country's role as ''superpower'' works against them. An understanding could be found around a Latin American candidate, as desired by the Latin Americans electors (who have 19 votes), who - on the other hand - have also expressed support for the French-Canadian Marc Ouellet (Canada has three votes), who has spent a long time in Colombia. However, Ouellet's candidacy is a long shot because of his brother's jailing in Canada in a child sex abuse case. A possible alliance between North and South Americans could see Africans (11 votes) come into play. In this case, Ghana's Peter Turkson could play a key role. While aiming for an African candidate, the Africans also appear keen to support a non-European candidate. If this scenario were to materialize, this front would enter the Conclave with 44 votes, enough to put forth a strong candidacy in the first round of voting. Eight years ago Benedict was said to have received 46 votes in the first round, enough to propel him towards election. Meanwhile, on the other front, there are the cardinals who would seem keener to accelerate the process, there is still no convergence on a single candidate. The most accredited European candidates in this pre-Conclave period remain Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, and Peter Erdo, the archbishop of Budapest. Then there is the group of Genoa-linked cardinals, led by Tarcisio Bertone, Domenico Calcagno and Angelo Bagnasco, who are said to support the candidacy of Mauro Piacenza, a candidate who also appeals to the Opus Dei. In recent days, the name of Francesco Coccopalmerio has also been making the rounds. Coccopalmiero is a respected jurist but his appeal, in terms of votes, is still to be tested. Finally, the candidate of Giovanni Battista Re, one of the ''grand electors'', appears to be, again, a Latin American, but one with ties to the Curia - the Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer. However Scherer, who served as an officer of the Congregation of Cardinals when it was under the leadership of Re, does not appear to appeal to the other South American cardinals.

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