We all know that the man who enters a conclave papabile comes out a cardinal. (Except Ratzinger, of course.) Still, it seems behovely to start keeping notes on some of the players. Over the next month, we at the Egg will do our best to keep you informed, using the search label "conclave." Maybe we'll get trading cards printed up.
Marc Ouellet, 68, is Quebecois. (Here's a profile.) He's a Sulpician priest, and taught theology for twelve years in Montreal. He has studied abroad, and served in Colombia. As head of the Congregation for Bishops, he has played an important role in choosing new bishops -- a tricky thing during these years of scandal. Theologically, he described as being much like Benedict. Perhaps more important, he also shares Benedict's personal affect: scholarly, cerebral, reserved.
Peter Turkson, 64, is from Ghana. He is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, and serves on many other Curial organizations, notably including Doctrine of the Faith. He thinks that married couples might uses condoms to prevent HIV transmission, if olnly condoms were made well. In response to the UN's criticism of African policies that discriminate against gay people, he has said that these may be an exaggeration, but one that is consonant with African culture, and that “So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.” Which, to our ears, sounds like telling rape victims not to wear such short skirts.
Francis Arinze, 80, is a Nigerian citizen of the Igbo tribe. He is a convert from traditional religion, and was baptized at the age of 9. In 1965, he became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world. He is a former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Although often mentioned as a potential pope, he seems awfully old for the job. Still, he has one very strong thing going for him, per the Guardian:
John Paul was so impressed when he visited in 1982 that he summoned him to Rome to manage the Vatican's relations with other faiths.
Shuttling to synagogues, mosques and temples, he forged ties with other religions while maintaining the Pope's strict line on doctrine.
"The beautiful thing about the cardinal is that he can say the hardest thing with a smile on his face and not offend people," said one colleague.
If "handling" communism was the Vatican's 20th-century challenge, Islam is widely thought to be this century's, and one which Cardinal Arinze is equipped to face.
If you are wondering, there has never been a pope from the New World, but there have been a handful of Africans -- Victor I, Melchiades, and Gelasius -- all before the sixth century. Nobody really knows what color their skins were.