Vatican City, March 8 - The next pope should be young and follow the path set by Benedict XVI and John Paul II, according to South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier. Benedict, who stepped down as pope last week, is a doctrinal conservative and so was John Paul. This could be seen in many issues, such as both popes' refusal to end the ban on women becoming priests or consider greater acceptance of homosexuality and their staunch stances against contraception and abortion. Napier, the Archbishop of Durban who is in Rome to take part in his second conclave, said his vision of what the next leader of the Catholic Church should be like was deeply influenced by the much-loved John Paul, who died in 2005. He cited the way both John Paul and Benedict had successfully put the centrality of Christ foremost. "That whole thing about prayer and the centrality of Christ, the new pope will have to be someone who is conscious of the foundations that are already there and who is committed to building on those foundations," Napier told Vatican Radio. The South African also warned that "building on existent foundations could be trickier than building new ones". He talked about John Paul II's theology of the body too. "At the time he was giving those talks they didn't seem to make so much of an impact," Napier told Vatican Radio. "But since then, that theology has really come out as how this is a wonderful way of reaffirming just how unique a creation a human person is, and because of that uniqueness humans need to be given that special reverence and respect". The cardinal said that in this way John Paul II gave the world a lesson on the value of human life. "But he also wanted that value to be heightened by the New Evangelization, and that was then picked up by pope Benedict, who gave it an even clearer definition," added Napier. After the relatively brief papacy of Benedict, Napier thinks his fellow cardinals will want to elect a young pope who can lead the Church for longer. "I think we will have to have a fairly lengthy pontificate, so we will be looking at a younger person," he said. Napier added that the Church should be careful not to be Eurocentric. "(The new pope) will need to have heard from the different sectors of the Church, what the issues are, how the Church in those places is already trying to tackle those issues, and what role the pope can play to influence them," he said. "We Africans have met informally a couple of times (at the pre-conclave general congregations) and looked at the issues we would like to share with the Church in other parts of the world. "Maybe now that Europe is in crisis and is concentrating on itself, it's forgetting that there are answers to some of the issues and problems that can come from outside. "And I think this is where our concern could be as Africans - what can we bring to the consciousness of the Church in Europe that maybe makes them more aware of what's going on out there, but at the same time makes them look at alternative solutions to the issues". He suggested the cardinals were somewhat torn between the need to take the time necessary to find the right pope and the desire to have a new pontiff in place by Palm Sunday, Sunday March 24, so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies that lead up to Easter. "We were taken a little off guard. I didn't expect Pope Benedict to resign just before Easter knowing how important Easter and especially Good Friday are for him," he said. "We (cardinals) are here under a certain self-imposed pressure. "We want to find out as much as we can, get as familiar with each other as we can, try to identify possible candidates, and at the same time we know the longer we spend doing that, the harder it will be to return home". photo: South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier.
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