Amid the worldwide eulogies for Pope John Paul II runs an undercurrent of desire for change in the Catholic Church.
In the Spanish-speaking world, the online commentators from Mexico City to Buenos Aires to Madrid are handicapping the selection of the next pope with special attention to the possibility that the College of Cardinals might pick the first pontiff ever from Latin America.
at 3:39 PM
An earlier version of the March 17, 2005, World Opinion Round column mischaracterized several comments Felix Rodriguez made to interviewer Maria Elvira Salazar. The column also inaccurately characterized Mr. Rodriguez's relationship with the Bush family. A corrected version of the article appears here.
Annan Survives -- But Will U.N. Reform? (washingtonpost.com, Mar 31, 2005)
Springtime for Hezbollah (and Hamas) (washingtonpost.com, Mar 29, 2005)
In the Schiavo Debate, the Face of America (washingtonpost.com, Mar 24, 2005)
Wolfowitz's Third World Critics (washingtonpost.com, Mar 22, 2005)
Venezuela's 'Anti-Bush' Fears Assassination (washingtonpost.com, Mar 17, 2005)
World Opinion Archive
In Africa, a Protestant cleric, Bishop Desmond Tutu, told the Johannesburg Star that he hoped the next pope would be African. In Kenya, The Standard notes there have only been three popes of North African descent, the most recent of whom served 15 centuries ago.
And in Europe, theological liberals are hoping for a change of the doctrinal conservatism favored by John Paul II.
One common denominator in the commentary about the papal succession is the view that just as John Paul II changed the church, so must the next pope who will lead a global congregation very different from the one Karol Wojtyla took up in 1978.
Perhaps the most outspoken Vatican watcher is Hans Kueng, the liberal German theologian who tangled often with John Paul II. In a piece written last week for the German newsweekly Spiegel Online, Kueng wrote that John Paul II's tenure has "proven to be a great disappointment and, ultimately, a disaster." He "deeply polarized the church, alienated it from countless people and plunged it into an epochal crisis -- a structural crisis that, after a quarter century, is now revealing fatal deficits in terms of development and a tremendous need for reform."
Kueng says the next pope "must decide in favor of a change in course and inspire the church to embark on new paths."
In Latin America, many hope that the next pope will come from the ranks of cardinals in the region. El Tiempo (in Spanish) in Colombia notes that 528 million of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics live in Latin America.
In Argentina, the coverage of the tabloid Página 12 (Spanish) focuses on "the Church that exists and the Church to come." It opens with a quote from Brazilian cardinal Claudio Hummes, the archbishop of Sao Paulo, often cited as a possible successor to John Paul II, who says, "One cannot give old answers to new questions."
The key issue, says author Washington Uranga, is a social question: the church's position on the plight of the poor in a world of unprecedented riches and globalization. Some Third World and European cardinals say that the Church will only regain its "prophetic strength" if it forcefully calls for "justice and equality" for the poor, Uranga writes. But the majority of cardinals in the Vatican are not comfortable with this line of thinking, he says.
Argentina's most popular newspaper, Clarín (Spanish), says that among the conservative majority in the College of Cardinals is an "important nucleus" that believes the next pope must have "more advanced thinking" than the traditionalist John Paul II.
The Buenos Aires daily mentions five possible candidates from Latin America. Hummes of Brazil is described as a "reformist." Honduran cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga is described as "an intellectual reformist." Dario Castrillon of Colombia and Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico are said to be "orthodox" in their views.
La Republica (Spanish) in Peru also sees the papal succession shaping up as a contest between reformist and orthodox candidates. The Lima daily sees Maradriaga as the most attractive reformist contender given his ability to speak seven languages and his outspoken advocacy of debt reduction for poor countries.
Among the orthodox candidates, La Republica says Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a conservative who was close to John Paul II, is considered the strongest. La Republica concludes that Italian cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi may emerge as a consensus choice.
In Spain, El Mundo (Spanish) has its own list of 10 candidates, led by Ratzinger. His strengths as a papal candidate are said to be "his strength, his coherence and knowledge of the Holy See." His advanced age and diabetes are said to hurt his chances.
Hummes of Brazil is El Mundo's only candidate from Latin America. Italy's Tettamanzi is described as "one of the most probable successors."
In Paris, Le Figaro says, "The debate on the possible conservatism or the possible progressivism of the successor of Jean-Paul II is ridiculous. For him, progressivism was only an empty concept. Only a freely assumed tradition is able to open up the authentic development of humanity."
But the traditions of the Vatican have evolved in the last quarter century, notes Henri Tincq in Le Monde (French). At the opening of the conclave on April 17, 54 countries will be represented, he reports.
"For the first time, Europe will no longer have the absolute majority. With 58 (of 117) electors, it represents less than half of the voters whereas it exceeded the 50-percent level in the two conclaves of 1978. Latin America has a solid battalion of 21 cardinal electors, more than Italy, and North America has 14. Africa, with 11 electors, has also made progress, and Asia, also with 11."
The prospects for a non-European pope are better than ever but far from assured.