Rome is abuzz with rumors and anticipation. But it's not the political mess people are talking about: it's the election of a new pope, which began yesterday (Tuesday). Italian governments, after all, come and go, but a pope stays for a very long time.
"There's plenty of guessing here", says Jaroslaw Duraj, a young Polish priest based in Rome. "Two cardinals are widely considered papabili [papal candidates]: Angelo Scola from Italy and Odilo Pedro Scherer from Brazil. But one has to remember that throughout history, outsiders have most often been elected Pope."
In his book “The History of Papal Elections”, historian Ambrogio Piazzoni shows that only 4% of the conclaves to date have ended with the predicted result. Indeed, John Paul II was a little-known Polish cardinal who was only elected pope after the cardinals failed to unite behind one of the frontnunners.
And even though bookmakers give Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, the best odds, there's increasingly vocal support for the idea that the next pope should an African. "The country of origin and the race don’t matter when electing a pope,” observes Mathew Bomki, a seminarian from Cameroon who is studying in Rome. "But while the Church is in decline in the West, it has grown from one million members in Africa in 1910 to 171 million today, and it's continuing to grow. Africans will revere whoever is elected pope. It's also true that a pope needs prayers and sound leadership, and for that reason I think Cardinal Turkson [from Ghana] would be a good pontiff. But most importantly, I believe that the conclave will choose a pope according to the will of God."
So how long will it take God to make his will known to the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel? Nobody knows, of course, but sources tell Metro that the conclave is expected to last until Friday, but not longer. "The election will come down to a candidate who will stay the course of John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” predicts Fr. Leonard Altilia, a Canadian Jesuit who teaches in Rome. "Of course, since the cardinals are sworn to secrecy, we'll never know who will come second and third in the voting. But if the cardinals observe that vow of secrecy poorly as they've done on other recent occasions, we may indeed find out more than we should."