Ratzinger Seen as Favorite to Become Next Pope

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

Ratzinger Seen as Favorite to Become Next Pope


Byline: John Phillips, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

VATICAN CITY - Italian newspapers yesterday identified Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the front-runner to succeed Pope John Paul II with the backing of at least 40 cardinals, while critics conducted a ruthless whispering campaign against the conservative German prelate.

La Repubblica's respected Vatican correspondent Marco Politi reported that at least 40 and perhaps as many as 50 of the 115 voting cardinals were prepared to support Cardinal Ratzinger, 78, the late pope's personal theologian.

A well-placed Polish Church source said he thought Cardinal Ratzinger's supporters so far "might be more than 50, perhaps as many as 55."

La Repubblica said the cardinal was willing to accept nomination in the conclave starting Monday only if he can be sure of the two-thirds majority required to elect a pope during the first 13 days of the conclave, or 77 votes.

If the conclave continues longer than 13 days, a simple majority will elect the next pope, under rules put in place by John Paul.

The newspaper also said that rivals of the "Panzercardinal," as the French press has dubbed him for his unbending doctrinal stances, were spreading "poison" against him.

"To eliminate him, somebody has spread the word that he belonged to Nazi organizations," it quoted a friend of the cardinal saying. "Like all German boys, he was enrolled in the Hitler Youth. He recounted it himself in a book; he was little more than a child; he was 12 years old."

Cardinal Ratzinger's secretary was unavailable for comment when his office was called yesterday, but John Allen Jr., a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote about the episode in a 2002 biography of the cardinal. …

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