LATINO VOICES
02/11/2013 02:23 pm ET

Leonardo Sandri, Argentine Cardinal, Possible Successor To Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 18:  Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (C) attends the concistory held by Pope Benedict XV at the Sai
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 18: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (C) attends the concistory held by Pope Benedict XV at the Saint Peter's Basilica on February 18, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. The 84 year old Pontiff installed 22 new cardinals during the ceremony, who will be responsible for choosing his sucessor. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

With Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, Argentina’s Leonardo Sandri may have a chance at becoming the first Latin American to head the Holy See.

A descendant of Italians, Cardinal Sandri began his ecclesiastical studies in Buenos Aires and joined the priesthood in 1967, according to Argentina’s Diario Uno.

Sandri later earned a doctorate in Cannonical Law and distinguished himself in diplomatic roles for the Catholic Church, building a reputation for effective diplomacy with heads of state, according to Terra.

He is perhaps best known for serving as spokesman for Pope Juan Pablo II.

But the 69-year-old Cardinal may face an uphill battle if he’s interested in becoming Pope. According to Reuters:

He held the third-highest Vatican post as its chief of staff in 2000-2007. But he has no pastoral experience and his job overseeing eastern churches is not a power position in Rome.

Another Argentine, Jorge Bergoglio, had been a strong contender for the Papacy when Benedict was elected in 2005, but he withdrew himself from consideration, according to Diario Uno.

Sandri isn’t the only Latin American with a chance to rise to the position of Pope. Reuters considers Brazilian Archbishop Odilo Scherer a strong candidate, and VOXXI views Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gómez as a possibility.

Pope Benedict unexpectedly resigned Monday, saying his old age and physical ailments prevented him from continuing to hold the office. He’s the first Pope to resign the position since 1415.

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