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Cardinal Aponte Martinez Says Latin Pope A Possibility…Pope From Latin America Would Make The Region Proud…The Region Whose Time May Have Come

Puerto Rican Cardinal Optimistic For Latin American Pope; Dominican Cardinal Mourns Pontiff's Passing


April 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's cardinal expressed optimism Sunday about the possibility that the next pope will come from Latin America.

Puerto Rico Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez, who will not have a vote at the conclave to choose the pontiff's successor because he is more than 80 years old, also said he thought the conclave to choose a new pope would last only two or three days.

"There is a strong possibility of a Latino (pope), but there is a lot of competition because there are good candidates from Europe and other parts of the world," said the 82-year-old cardinal, who participated in the selection of John Paul I and John Paul II.

"I calculate the following: when we elected John Paul I, we did it in four days; when we elected John Paul II, we did it in two days; so I don't think this conclave will last more than two or three days," Aponte Martinez told reporters as he prepared to leave for Rome.

In the Dominican Republic, about 2,000 people attended a Mass at Santo Domingo Cathedral for the pope, who died Saturday. Many people openly wept.

"We've lost a man of God here on Earth but we've gained in heaven a good helper for God," Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez said on Sunday. The 68-year-old cardinal has a vote at the conclave but did not speak about possible successors to the pontiff.

Many people here hope the conclave will choose a Latin American to be pope for the first time, since half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics live in the region.

The four main Latin American candidates are: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 68, from Argentina; Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, from Brazil; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, 62, from Mexico, and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 62, from Honduras.

At Sunday Mass in Puerto Rico's capital, the faithful passed one-by-one through San Juan cathedral's wooden doors bedecked with huge, black mourning wreaths, briefly kneeling and crossing themselves.

Rosario Salazar, 72, pulled on her crucifix and wept: "We were blessed to live in the time when he was pope."

Asked about the possibility of the next pope being from Latin America, Salazar said: "That would be right. I think we are the holiest part of the world. In Europe and the United States they no longer go to church; here we still believe."

At a nearby store selling native Puerto Rican art, owner Cynthia Vega says having a Latino pope would be: "Divine, truly divine. It would help draw our children to the church."

In Haiti, at the archbishop's residence, Catholic nuns replaced a vase of red roses with yellow carnations beneath a large photograph of the pope to mark his passing.

"He suffered physically for the church and for all of humanity," Haiti's Archbishop Mario Giordana said. "His passing has affected us all."

Though not the iconic figure he was throughout most of Latin America, many Haitians remember fondly the pope's visit to the impoverished nation in 1983.

"He honored us by coming," said Sister Juvenia Joseph, a Catholic nun who noted that the pontiff also sent his blessings after devastating floods last year submerged entire communities in the countryside and left several thousand people dead.

In Trinidad, Archbishop Edward Gilbert called the passing of the Pope a significant loss.

"His vision, his humanity, his spirituality were truly outstanding," Gilbert said.


Associated Press writers Peter Prengaman in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Stevenson Jacobs in Port-au-Prince Haiti; and Loren Brown in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad contributed to this report.

Archbishop Says A Pope From Latin America Would Make The Region Proud


April 4, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Puerto Rico's archbishop said Monday that having a pope from Latin America would bring great pride to Roman Catholics across the region.

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves didn't name any possible candidate as he announced he would attend Pope John Paul II's funeral at the Vatican.

"We Latin Americans would feel very proud to have a Latin American pope," Gonzalez Nieves told reporters.

Some religious leaders have expressed hope that the next pope would be from Latin America, since about half of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics live in the region. No Latin American has been pope.

The four main Latin American candidates are: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 68, from Argentina; Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, from Brazil; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, 62, from Mexico, and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 62, from Honduras.

Gonzalez Nieves recalled the "great love" that John Paul II had for Puerto Rico, which he visited in 1984. The archbishop remembered how the pope kissed the ground upon reaching the predominantly Catholic U.S. territory.

"When he arrived to Puerto Rico he kissed our earth, he kissed our nation," Gonzalez Nieves said.

He also said that the Vatican, under John Paul II, supported the archbishop's efforts to lobby for the end of U.S. Navy bombing exercises on the island of Vieques. Following a series of protests, the Navy left the island nearly two years ago.

The Region Whose Time May Have Come

Catholic Church Latin America


April 4, 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

Europe Ed1

History and tradition may favour an Italian, but the strength of the Catholic Church in Latin America means that the next Pope could come from the region that boasts the largest number of Catholics in the world. Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Claudio Hummes, of Brazil, Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, Cuba's Jaime Ortega and Dario Castrillion Hoyos from Colombia have frequently featured among the favourites. Vatican watchers, too, concede that what they call a "Latin American moment" is a possibility.

The "Papables" are a mixed bag. Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, a 62- year-old charismatic left-leaning intellectual, speaks five languages, plays the piano and flies light aircraft and helicopters.

The more conservative Cardinal Hummes, the 71-year-old archbishop of Sao Paulo, is a regular defender of trades unions and the poor. At last week's Easter Day service he launched a withering attack on political nepotism by Brazilian politicians, talked about the plight of the unemployed and offered a lunch for the homeless who sleep outside Sao Paulo cathedral.

The 75-year-old Cardinal Castrillion is a conservative who works inside the Vatican machine. The 68-year-old Cardinal Ortega is another more conventional figure, although his opposition to Fidel Castro in his native Cuba resembles Pope John Paul II's anti-communism. Cardinal Bergoglio, 68, maintains a low-profile, socially concerned and austere lifestyle. At home in his native Buenos Aires he has swapped his luxurious palace for a modest flat and travels by bus.

All the candidates, though, have distanced themselves from the liberation theology - a mixture of grass-roots activism and utopian Marxism - that was hugely influential in the Latin American Church in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, as head of the Latin American bishops council Cardinal Castrillion and Cardinal Rodriguez both helped re-establish the authority of the Church hierarchy in battles against leftwingers. And all share the conservative approach to personal morality, sexuality and Church doctrine that was a feature of the Catholic Church under John Paul II. Even Cardinal Rodriguez, a man broad-minded enough to have studied clinical psychology, has shocked his leftwing supporters by suggesting that the recent scandal over paedophilia in the US Church had been exaggerated.

When judged against candidates from other parts of the world, especially from other developing countries, the Latin Americans boast two main advantages. First, they come from a region where the Church has a huge number of followers and its moral teaching has sunk deep roots. As many as 450m of the world's estimated 1.1bn Catholics are from the region. The 22-strong group of Latin American cardinals (out of a total of 118) is the biggest single regional grouping outside Europe, although they are not expected to act in a collective fashion. Secularism is weaker in the region, society less liberal and less out of tune with the Vatican's moral teaching. Abortion is illegal other than in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and homosexuality is still taboo in much of the region. In Chile divorce was only recently legalised.

Secondly, Latin America offers lessons for the Vatican that could be especially important as the Church faces the advance of Islam. After battling with revolutionary priests who joined guerrilla movements and leftwing clerics who served as ministers in the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, Latin American Church leaders have begun to combat the growth of Protestantism in the region. With barely 2m adherents in 1960, Protestant Churches have more than 50m members today.

Martin Poblete, a former Chilean priest who now teaches history at Columbus University in New York, says the Church "is not only holding ground but also beginning to recover it in some countries".

Part of the response has been a more socially concerned, community-based approach. In some countries the Catholic Church has begun to hit back by launching its own aggressive and imaginative evangelism.

In Brazil, Argentina and Chile, charismatic Catholic figures such as Marcelo Rossi - the Brazilian priest whose rock albums are best sellers and whose performances bring capacity crowds to soccer stadiums - are increasingly popular.

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