Who will be the next pope?

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Who will be the next pope?

If you were to talk about who will be the next pope in the Vatican (but the question is ‘not done’), they ‘d say that it is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

I cannot consult ‘him’.

But I do have some ideas. First: there is little point in dropping names. Second: we need to know what kind of pope is needed (at the moment of the pope election in conclave), how the present pontificate can be described and what challenges the Roman Catholic Church faces.

Years ago I wrote a book about it. But the issues that were relevant then are still relevant today. The point is whether the Pope’s candidate fits in with these themes:

  • – Enforcement of the authority of doctrine
  • – Ethics
  • – Peace and Justice
  • – Interreligious dialogue

The latter two topics have been priorities since the 1960s, and have been strongly embraced by Pope Francis. It is obvious that a next pope would be on good terms with Islam. Cardinal Turkson from Ghana, for example, would have a good chance because he comes from a mixed faith family among other things.

An Asian and an African Cardinale in the Vatican

But what if there is a current in the Vatican (and there is such a current) that thinks that there has been enough rapprochement? Or what happens in case of a huge clash between the world religions? Then you’d need another candidate.

Read more questions and answers about Vatican secrets.


Age and origin

Other factors that are important:

  • Origin. A non-European pope is no longer taboo since the current pope is from Argentina.
  • Age. Depends on how long you want a pope to reign. In general, the papacy of John Paul II, who became pope at the age of 58 (and remained so for almost 27 years), is regarded as too long. A man (yes, always a man) well in his seventies can do well.
  • Administratively or pastorally. In general, there is a preference for a pastor, not a manager. But a pope who cannot manage, is not wanted either.

That brings us to a list of names. I will only touch on them briefly. More information can also be found here.


  • Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (from Honduras, born 1942). He is the strongest Latin American candidate. Maradiaga has also a big say in the Vatican bureaucracy. He is certainly an experienced man of the Roman curia (the highest administrative authority in Rome). The hondurese chairs the so called Council of (seven) Cardinal Advisers, that advices the pope.
  • Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle (from the Philippines, born in 1957). This is the candidate of people who would like a young, modern and charismatic pope. He is pushed by pope Francis and therefore not the favorite candidate for the anti-Francis cardinales. Tagle is chief of International Caritas, an important Catholic aid organisation.
  • Christoph Schönborn (from Austria, born in 1945). In the event of a deadlock in the first rounds of the papal election, Schönborn might just have a chance as intermediate pope. The soft spoken earl (he comes from a noble family) is in line with the previous pope (Benedict XVI) and man of dialogue.
  • Matteo Maria Zuppi (from Italy, born in 1955). Since 20 per cent of all cardinals eligible to vote (that is about 120 men) come from Italy, the influence of the Italian group cannot be ruled out. This is the man who, because of his pastoral qualities and friendship with Pope Francis, does stand a chance. He is (too) young, though.
  • Pietro Parolin (from Italy, born in 1955). If you want an Italian and a curia man as the next pope, you end up with Parolin. He is the number two in power. But secretaries of state are often not so popular with cardinals who head their local church. Parolin is the man behind the opening with China (the ‘religious market’ of the future).
  • Robert Sarah (from French Guinea, born in 1945). He is the candidate of the traditionalists and absolutely the opposite of Pope Francis. Sarah was head of the Vatican Department of developing countries. With this, he has excellent relations with the churches in Africa and Asia.
  • Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson (from Ghana, born in 1948). This is the man who advocates the continuity of Francis. Absolutely the man of interreligious dialogue. He is born in a mixed faith family. He is head of the Congregation for Human Development, a new and important department.
  • Marc Ouellet (from Canada, bron in 1944). The most important thing to say about this Canadian cardinal is that he finished third in the last conclave (of 2013). He has (or at least had) a large following eight years ago.

Feel free to react if you have other ideas about who will be the next pope.


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