• Short Summary

    The Conclave of Cardinals, to elect a successor to the late Pope Paul VI, will begin on Friday (25 August).

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    The Conclave of Cardinals, to elect a successor to the late Pope Paul VI, will begin on Friday (25 August). The Cardinals will continue balloting, as two sessions a day, until one candidate receives a majority of two-thirds plus one. 114 Cardinals are eligible to take part in the voting; those aged over 80 were excluded by a decision of Pope Paul's.

    SYNOPSIS: The Cardinals began gathering in Rome when Pope paul died more than two weeks ago. Since his funeral, they have had a chance to get to know each other and hold informal discussions. The issue is regarded as extremely open, with just the possibility of the first non-Italian Pope for 450 years.

    Cardinal Jean Villot (on the right) is 72, and French. He was Pope Paul's Secretary of State, and is in charge until the election is made.

    But if, as still seems likely, an Italian is chosen, Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio is one of the favourites. He is 65, and head of the Sacred Congregation of Bishop. In any contest between progressives and conservatives, he is regarded as a moderate.

    Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli, on the left, met the Dalai Lama when he visited Rome five years ago. He is head of the Secretariat for Non-Christians, set up after the second Vatican Council to make contacts with major religions. Cardinal Pignedoli is 68. Like Cardinal Baggio, he is multi-lingual and widely travelled, and was a close friend of the later Pope. His supporters hope he would carry on the reforms of the past decade.

    Those who think reforms have gone far enough may tend to favour Cardinal Pericle Felici. Seen here in Portugal, unveiling a statue of Pope Paul, he is conservative in outlook, and an expert theologian.

    Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, also Italian, was close to Pope Paul as assistant Secretary of State until last year, when he was appointed Archbishop of Florence (Firenze). At only 57,some Cardinals may consider him still rather young for the Papacy.

    Cardinal Eduardo Pironio is 57, and the man who could break the Italian tradition. He comes from Argentina, and was President of the Conference of Latin American Bishops. But he is of Italian family, and could be an acceptable compromise between the Italians and the Third World.

    If Cardinal Johannes Willebrands were to be appointed, it would be a complete break with tradition. He is the Roman Catholic Primate of the Netherlands, a progressive, and the head of the Vatican department for Christian unity. He has promoted the ecumenical movement since witnessing the Nazi persecution of all religion in Holland in the second world war. He is 68.

    Another widely-travelled, vastly experienced man whose named has been mentioned is Cardinal Franz Koenig of Austria. In 1975, he visited Egypt, and called on President Sadat. But he made his reputation in delicate negotiations to improve relations between the Communist states of Eastern Europe and their Roman Catholic populations. At 73, he might be considered rather old to take supreme office.

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