Who Will Be Next Pope After Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation?

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Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign from the papal office on Feb. 28, marking the first resignation of a pope in the Catholic Church in almost 600 years.

So, what happens now? Who will be the next pope?

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed that the College of Cardinals will meet to elect the next pope some time in March, according to CNN. A new pope is expected to be in position by Easter on March 31.

There are 118 electors eligible to vote for Benedict's successor as of January 2013, according to USA Today. Italy has the most cardinal-electors at 28, and the United States follows with 11.

Some are already offering their guesses on who will be the next pope.

Three Vatican experts told USA Today that the top five cardinal contenders include: Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former Archbishop of Quebec; Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican's office for Eastern Churches.

Others believe the next pope may be from Latin America.

"I know a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin America who could take responsibility for the universal Church,'' Archbishop Gerhard Mueller told Duesseldorf's Rheinische Post newspaper before Christmas, according to Reuters. "The universal Church teaches that Christianity isn't centred on Europe."

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana or Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, each a front-runner, could become the first black pope. However, some suggest that "Victor I, from 189 to 199, was the first black pope. He was born in the Roman province of Africa, as were Pope Miltilades (311-314) and Pope Gelasius I 492-496," the Telegraph writes.

As HuffPost Italia notes, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; and Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue are also in the running.

After Benedict's resignation on Feb. 28, a conclave -- the meeting of the cardinals to choose the next pope -- could occur as early as mid-March, according to the Guardian. Customarily, a pope's reign ends with his death, and a mourning period ensues.

Aside from the mourning period, all the same rules for succession selection are in place.

The conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days after Benedict's resignation, according to the Associated Press. Eligible cardinals under the age of 80 will place their votes in secret at the Sistine Chapel. Two votes are held each morning and two each afternoon until a new pope is chosen. The ballots are burned after each round. Black smoke means no new pope has been selected, and white smoke means someone has been selected.

Benedict, who was elected in April 2005, announced on Monday that he will no longer lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first to resign from his position since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

Via Vatican Radio:

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

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AP reports:

REGENSBURG, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI is planning to stay out of the public eye following his retirement at the end of the month but may stand ready to advise his successor if asked, his brother said Tuesday after talking with the pontiff.

Speaking to reporters at his home in the southern German city of Regensburg, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother Joseph, said he didn't expect Benedict's continued presence in the Vatican to intimidate the next pope.

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Keith Thomson writes in a blog post:

Much is at stake with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI's successor, including a lot of money. Paddy Power, Europe's largest bookmaker, has already taken more than £100,000 in bets, and expects to see multi-million-pound action closer to next month's conclave at the Sistine Chapel.

While Las Vegas casinos refuse to accept such bets for reasons of "taste," Paddy Power is one of several major international bookmakers currently offering papal markets, not only on who will be the next pope, but what papal name he'll choose, his country of origin, and the length of the papal conclave, among others.

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A group of topless activists scandalized visitors at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday by disrobing in public to celebrate Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

The small group of women, all affiliated with radical feminist group FEMEN, flashed their breasts and banged on bells in the cathedral, shouting slogans such as, "Bye Bye Benedict" and "No more homophobe," according to the Agence France-Presse.

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HuffPost's Lila Shapiro reports:

Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic nun and co-founder of a U.S. ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics, met Pope Benedict XVI only once, by chance, on a plane flying from Baltimore to Rome in the late-'90s. Because of her work with the lesbian and gay community, Gramick had by then been under investigation by the Vatican for more than two decades.

The encounter was serendipitous, Gramick recalled Monday after hearing news of Benedict's resignation. Gramick and leaders at her ministry had been worried that she would be excommunicated. She was traveling with the head of her order to Munich, via Rome, to pray that she would keep her place in the church. When she boarded the plane, she saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became pope, sitting with two empty seats beside him. She mustered her courage and sat next to him. "When he found out who I was, he just smiled and said 'Oh, I've known about you for 20 years,'" she said.

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vatican nuns pray

Nuns pray inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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Reuters reports:

VATICAN CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Cardinals around the world began informal contacts to discuss who should next lead the Church through a period of major crisis and the Vatican said it planned a big send-off for Pope Benedict before he becomes the first pontiff in centuries to resign.

At a Tuesday news conference on how the pope plans to spend the next two weeks before he steps out of the limelight, the Vatican also disclosed that the 85-year-old Benedict has been wearing a pacemaker since before he was elected pope in 2005.

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Yesterday morning the Church and the world learned that Pope Benedict XVI, following an extended period of prayer and reflection, discerned that he would resign the papacy at the end of this month. This news certainly came as a great surprise to all of us. It would be reasonable to consider that the Holy Father's advancing age and the responsibilities of being the leader for more than one billion Catholics, including the demands of extensive international travel, played a central role in his decision. We join the universal Church in offering prayerful gratitude for the Holy Father's faith, courage and his leadership as the successor of Peter.

At this time it is appropriate for the Church and all people of good faith to reflect on Pope Benedict's legacy and achievements. He brought unique capabilities to the papacy as a highly qualified scholar and teacher, and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in service to Blessed John Paul II. His fidelity to maintaining the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith, to cultivating ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and in reaching out to inspire the next generation of Catholics have been great gifts to us all.

During the course of the past eight years Pope Benedict embraced the papacy with the heart of a kind and caring shepherd, always holding the spiritual and pastoral care of the people of God to be the highest priority. The Holy Father also generously used his superior intellectual gifts, well established through his reputation as a renowned scholar, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church with people from all walks of life throughout the world. He guided the Church through unprecedented challenges, always finding strength in Jesus' promise to be with us always, and led a world-wide renewal of evangelization that will influence the Catholicism for generations to come.

The Archdiocese of Boston in particular has been greatly blessed by Pope Benedict's care and concern.In all of my conversations with him he has always asked me to assure this local Church of his prayers and encouragement. I will always hold the Holy Father's 2008 meeting with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and our presentation of the Book of Names of living and deceased survivors, as one of the most powerful experiences of my life and priesthood.

His overwhelming sorrow that such heinous crimes were perpetrated on the survivors and his heartfelt expression of love and concern were deeply moving, as was his absolute commitment that the abuse never be repeated and that the Church maintain her vigilance to do everything possible to insure the safety of children.

While there will be much speculation in the days and weeks ahead regarding who will follow the Holy Father to the Chair of Peter, at this moment we are called to reflect on Pope Benedict's leadership; offering prayers of gratitude for this servant of Christ who so dearly loves all of God's people. At this extraordinary moment in the life of the Church, we pray for the wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit and the strength given by our Lord, who, assures us that he will be with us always.

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Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, releases a statement:

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Rabbi Burton Visotzky, director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Jewish Theological Seminary, discusses the positive state of Jewish-Catholic relations under Pope Benedict XVI's leadership and his hopes for the future.

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mater ecclesiae monastery

A view of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, right, next to the Tower of San Giovanni, inside the Vatican State where Pope Benedict XVI is expected to live after he resigns, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. For months, construction crews have been renovating a four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where nuns would live for a few years at a time in cloister. Only a handful of Vatican officials knew it would one day be Pope Benedict XVI's retirement home. On Tuesday, construction materials littered the front lawn of the house and plastic tubing snaked down from the top floor to a dump truck as the restoration deadline became ever more critical following Benedict's stunning announcement that he would resign Feb. 28 and live his remaining days in prayer. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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femen protest

Activists of the Women's Movement FEMEN, protest against the Pope Benedict XVI who announced his resignation yesterday, in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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Andreas Widmer writes in a blog post:

The Vatican moves very slowly -- they measure time in centuries, not years. Thus the news from Pope Benedict of his impending resignation during the last stretch of his seventh year as pope struck the public like lightning.

"Shocking! Unbelievable!" was the sentiment that came to mind when I (and I presume you) first learned of Pope Benedict's abdication.

This reaction is a natural initial response -- but there's a lot more to the story. The mainstream discussion about Benedict's decision is a regrettable oversimplification. We don't do justice to this important announcement declaring the pontificate a failure and proceeding to a guessing game of "who's the next pope."

Before we move on, we need to stop and reflect on what just happened -- not just in the past seven years, but the last 70 years. Upon closer examination of the facts, observers will see that this was a strategic decision, and not one done in a moment of weakness or despair.

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Agence France Presse reports:

French President Francois Hollande had his knuckles rapped for it but most of Europe felt free Tuesday to start cracking jokes about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, sometimes with a sharp anti-clerical edge.

The paedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic church in recent years ensured many of the quips flooding the Twittersphere and some of the cartoons published online and in newspapers across the continent had a dark theme.

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st peters square

Media gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica, at The Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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Kim Daniels, director of Catholic Voices USA writes:

Catholics mark our year with feasts and fasts, times of repentance and times of rejoicing. Our calendar sets the rhythm of Catholic life. Given that, it's no accident that Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, patron saint of the sick.

Those focusing on papal politics miss the real story. With his resignation Pope Benedict -- arguably one of the most powerful people in the world -- has chosen to give up that temporal power to align himself with the sick, the weak, the frail. In doing so he's affirming the central Christian truth that "when I am weak, then I am strong."

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AP reports:

MEXICO CITY -- Latin America is home to the world's largest Roman Catholic population, but hopes that the next pope will come from the region appear faint, experts said Monday.

The predominance of Europeans on the College of Cardinals means that the odds are stacked against a Latin American pope, even though the names of a number of high-ranking churchmen from the region have been bandied about, analysts said. The 118-member college, with 62 European members and only 19 from Latin America, will elect a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, who announced Monday he will resign due to age.

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David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, writes in a blog post:

As the Pope himself admits, he had his flaws and he made mistakes, but he was and is undoubtedly a holy man. He should be remembered above all for that.

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Sheikh Mustafa Ceric, the former grand mufti of Bosnia, releases a statement on behalf A Common Word Initiative and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute:

The news today about H.H. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation at the end of this month (February 2013) after nearly eight years as the successor of St. Peter and head of the Catholic Church was highly noticed by all the Muslims who had dialogue with him. First as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and then Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013 after John Paul II's death, he will be remembered as a foremost Catholic theologian and a sincere pastor for the Catholic faithful.

Although initially hurt by his remarks about Islam on September 12, 2006, while lecturing on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg, Germany, Muslim Scholars appreciated his apology afterwards and his subsequent friendly visits to Islamic countries and mosques, particularly the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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Religion News Service reports:

Pope Benedict XVI came into office with the reputation of a conservative hard-liner, a vigorous defender of orthodoxy who wanted to restore Tradition -- yes, with a capital "T"_ to a church that was seen as disturbingly undisciplined.

Yet with the stunning announcement that he is resigning as the 264th successor to Saint Peter, Benedict may wind up fundamentally changing the way the church and the world view the papacy.

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Timothy Cardinal Dolan writes in the New York Daily News:

Sede vacante: It’s a Latin phrase, and it means, “the chair is empty.”

On Monday, the 264th successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that, at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, the Chair of St. Peter would be empty.

For the first time in six centuries, a Pope is resigning.

We Catholics cherish symbols. A chair is a symbol, a sign, of authority, unity, wisdom.

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Reuters reports:

Father Federico Lombardi [Vatican spokesman] said the batteries on the appliance were replaced three months ago in a minor, routine intervention but that had played no part in persuading the pontiff to take the shock decision to step down.

"It had no influence on the decision, the reasons were in his perception that his strength had diminished with advancing age," Lombardi told a press briefing at the Vatican.

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After the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI's decision to abdicate as the head of the Catholic Church on Monday, front-page headlines across the world grew a few type sizes. The decision was surprising both for the faithful and for the guides and tour operators of Rome, a deeply tourist-dependent city where the Vatican is arguably the star attraction.

Local tour operators said yesterday that they plan to continue tours as usual, until either massive crowds, which descended during the last papal conclave, or the Vatican's dictates make doing so impossible.

For the rest of the story click here.

-- Andrew Burmon

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HuffPost Italy reports:

Less than three months ago, Pope Benedict XVI had heart surgery in the clinic Pius XI in Rome for the replacement of a pacemaker, "in absolute secrecy." This was reported on the front page of ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’in an article by the newspaper editor, Roberto Napoletano.

"The surgery went well," Napoletano said. "The Pope recovered regularly, he never missed an appointment with the Sunday Angelus, showed his usual serenity and good endurance. He was operated by Louis Chiariello, a heart surgeon who studied in the US and director of The University of Rome Tor Vergata. Chiariello has been treating the pulse and heart rates of the Pope for more than 10 years, since when he placed his first pacemaker."

Dr Chiariello “didn’t wanted to confirm the news,” writes Napoletano.“He entrenched behind a barrier of silence.” According to Il sole 24 Ore, before and after the surgery the Pope did not appear either troubled or extremely tired. He didn’t want to miss the appointment with the believers even on the Sunday immediately after the operation and “smiled on the hidden forces of his heart.”

“People close to him, by the way, saw him simply and firmly questioning about his ability to drive – in full force – the boat of St Peter and to proclaim the Gospel with the same courage and the same commitment demonstrated in recent years."

-- Giulia Belardelli

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Over at Business Insider, Michael Brendan Dougherty weighs the odds, and assesses pros and cons of each possible candidate for the papacy.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Country: Canada

Position: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, formerly Archbishop of Quebec.

Age: 68

Likelihood: Paddy Power ranks him 5/2. He has done missionary work in South America. Last year we said that our money was on Ouellet. His rank among the betters has shot up dramatically.

What His Election Would Mean: It's a global Church now. His work in helping to vet and select bishops would give him the ability as pope to dramatically shape the Church for a generation or more.

Reasons He'll Get Elected: Most qualified. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German fluently. He has done missionary work in South America.

Reasons He Might Not Get Elected: He might decline. (You can decline your election) He has given every indication that papacy is a "crushing responsibility" that he would hesitate to take. Then again, that is exactly what makes him an attractive candidate.

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The Sydney Morning Herald's Ruth Pollard reports:

He is viewed as the Pope who helped improve relations between the Vatican and Israel, while also providing open support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

As the news of Pope Benedict's retirement spread, Palestinian Catholics expressed their shock at his decision and their fears that it may reduce the authority of the church and the next Pope.

“We want the representative of the Holy See to be supportive of the marginalised, of the downtrodden and in this case, the Palestinians who are living under a brutal Israeli occupation,” said Zoughbi Zoughbi, the director of the Wi'am Palestinian Centre for Conflict Resolution.

“Anyone who comes into this position [of pope] has the responsibility of correcting injustices in all four corners of the world,” Mr Zoughbi said as he sat with friends in a café in Bethlehem.

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Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, released the following statement on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI:

It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict’s declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage. As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.

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@ nwarikoo : Imam Qazwini, who heads the biggest mosque in Michigan, met with Pope Benedict XVI twice. He said: "I have so much admiration for the Pope."

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His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released the following statement on Pope Benedict's abdication:

It is with regret that we have learned of the decision by His Holiness Pope Benedict to retire from his Throne, because with his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world.

Pope Benedict leaves an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his Church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige.

His writings will long speak of his deep theological understanding, through his knowledge of the Fathers of the undivided Church, his familiarity with contemporary reality, and his keen interest in the problems of humankind.

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h/t @nunblogger

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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield writes at The Washington Post:

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation, effective the end of February, and there are many ways to think about the significance of the event, including both the challenges and the opportunities in Catholic-Jewish relations that may come in the decision’s wake.

While some Jewish leaders have been troubled over the years by certain comments and actions by the outgoing pontiff, upon close examination, I think we see that there has been little if anything to be disturbed by, and much for which to be quite pleased. In fact, in his relationship to issues relating to Jews and Judaism, Pope Benedict has been, as he has been in regard to so many other matters, a fascinating figure -- deeply principled and highly intellectual, if sometimes frustrating in his seeming to be less than fully aware of the full emotional and public relations implications of some of his words and deeds.

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From the Associated Press:

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Around the Web

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