Who will be the next Pope? 8 main candidates

Who will succeed Pope Francis as leader of the Roman Catholic Church? Will the next pope come from Africa, Asia or again Europe or America?

Of course, we wish Pope Francis all the best, but if time on earth is not on his side, the right question to ask is: who will be the next Pope?

Before we reveal our eight candidates, we should first consider the job description and what qualities the candidates must meet.

First of all, candidates need to be male and baptised. So no popess. Sorry, female readers, there is nothing we can do about that.

Also read: In another article on Vatican secrets, we dive into the important elements of choice (see paragraph 6).

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Cardinals under 80 ears of age have the right to vote. It has been customary for the last two centuries that the Pope is chosen from this group.

Update: The College of Cardinals consists now of 129 electors (situation of March 10, 2024). This is the number of cardinals under the age of 80 who have the right to elect the next pope.

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Virgílio do Carmo da Silva (East Timor) during festivities after his elevation to Cardinal in Vatican City (Aug. 27, 2022) © Original italystart.com Photo

(This figure does not include Cardinal Angelo Becciu who remains a cardinal in title but has renounced “the rights attaching to the cardinalate” i.e. the right to elect a pope.)

Vatican Rome Pope Roman Catholic Church
Via: depositphotos.com | bloodua

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Pope’s candidates for the next conclave

This is our choice, based on our own analysis and decades of experience in reporting on the Vatican. Some names have been strikethrough because they have dropped out of the race over the course of time. The list is alphabetical.

  • Péter Erdö (Europe, age: 71)
  • Mario Grech (Europe, 66)
  • Marc Ouellet
  • Pietro Parolin (Europe, 68)
  • Óscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
  • Robert Sarah (Africa, 77)
  • Christoph Schönborn (Europe, 78)
  • Antonio Tagle (Asia, 65)
  • Peter Turkson (Africa, 74)
  • Matteo Zuppi (Europe, 76)

Péter Erdö

in the footsteps of John Paul II
  • CountryHungary
  • Year of birth: 1952
  • Age: 71 (June 2023)
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2003 (by pope John Paul II)
  • Why: appeals to conservatives without overly repelling ‘progressives’
  • Why not: European hardliner
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© Original italystart.com Photo

Erdö, a graduate in canon law (and theology), has achieved a dazzling career. At the age of 51, he became a cardinal and at the conclave in 2005 he was the youngest cardinal to take part in the conclave. He was 54 years old when elected president of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe. In 2011, he was re-elected for a second five-year term, a sign sat his European colleagues did consider him.

Erdö is trying to improve Catholic relations with the Orthodox churches as much as possible. Strengthened ecumenism with those churches (rather than e.g. the Protestant churches) is traditionally a priority in the Vatican. 

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Erdö is a very Eastern-European candidate, in a sense like John Paul II was, with (bad) memories of communism and a cultural proximity to Eastern Europe and Russia. This also makes him a rather conservative cardinal in the eyes of many in Western Europe and North America. Erdö opposed for example the idea of divorced and remarried catholics receiving communion. He believes that the opportunity should be given to celebrate the Tridentine Mass (traditional Mass in Latin), something Pope Francis disagrees with.


Mario Grech

sets the agenda
  • CountryMalta
  • Year of birth: 1957
  • Age: 66
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2020 (by pope Francis)
  • Why: is close to the fire, a protégé of Pope Francis
  • Why not: No rupture candidate, originating from (secularising) Europe, too young

Grech is casting high hopes on a next pontificate for being the number one (secretary-general) of the Synod of Bishops. This assembly is attended by bishops worldwide to discuss doctrinal and canonical matters, and has greatly gained authority over the past decade.

This is thanks to Pope Francis, who has lent an ear more through this college, and less through the College of Cardinals. Although the RC Church has a top-down chain of command, Pope Francis seems to be giving more space to what is going on among his fellow bishops and laity.

Preparations are currently under way for the year-long synod on synodality, which will take place in 2024. For this, clerics and lay faithful the local churches throughout were asked for input on social issues and how Rome should deal with them. 

It is Grech who has a major influence on the agenda of the synod and can also determine how the feedback from around the world should be presented.

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Grech has a fairly classical education. After his priesthood, he left for Rome to get a PhD in canon law and worked at the Roman Rota (tribunal of the Roman curia). Back in Malta or more precisely Gozo (a smaller island that is part of Malta), he was appointed bishop of Gozo at the age of 48. Since making his appearance as Maltese representative in the European bishops’ conference some 10 years ago, his star has begun to rise. 

Grech has a name like Joe Smith. His surname carries in Malta alone a minister and the opposition leader and even a former cardinal. But apart from having a very common Maltese name, it is noteworthy that with Grech the pope would come from one of the smallest countries of the world – which per se is by no means a bad thing.

Read also our article on what happens when the pope dies or steps down


Pietro Parolin

power figure behind the scene
  • CountryItaly
  • Year of birth: 1955
  • Age: 68
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2014 (by pope Francis)
  • Why: second-in-command of the Vatican, large influence base
  • Why not: no real pastoral experience, feared
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Pietro Parolin is the second in command of the Vatican. He occupies that position automatically as Secretary of State. This gives him an enormous position of power, but it is not a position that makes him popular with everybody. He is despised by Cardinal Joseph Zen (Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong), for example, because he thinks Parolin is playing a cynical power game by dealing with the Chinese authorities.

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Cardinal Zen being congratulated by Cardinal Arinze during the 2008 consistory © Original italystart.com Photo

Parolin serves thirty years in diplomatic service: at nunciatures around the world and at the Holy See, as the highest administrative apparatus in the Vatican is called. He is certainly a diplomat. As nuncio in Venezuela when Chavez was president, he kept relations on track, for example.

He ensured that diplomatic relations with Vietnam were strengthened. Parolin also facilitated the improved relations between ‘Catholic-Communist’ Cuba and the United States under Obama. As the spearhead of the organisation, Parolin has absolutely a chance of becoming pope.

Parolin, who was made Secretary of State by Francis, follows the Pope’s line entirely, is loyal and discreet, which could not be said of his predecessor (Bertone). Parolin comes from the Italian region of Veneto, a typical Catholic stronghold, which has produced many prelates.

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His almost total lack of pastoral experience could hurt his chances. Most cardinals are strongly involved in their own (arch)diocese, and thus have a link to everyday religious life. That is what Parolin lacks, and that is an experience that is expected of a pope.

But history shows that secretaries of state can become popes. It happened once in the last century. Eugenio Pacelli was Secretary of State between 1930 and 1939, and Pope Pius XII between 1939 and 1958.

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The stand-up positions of the international media in front of St Peter’s Square © Original italystart.com Photo



Robert Sarah

the Abraham of conservatives
  • CountryGuinea
  • Year of birth: 1945
  • Age: 78 (June 2023)
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2010 (by pope Benedict)
  • Why: clearly conservative profile
  • Why not: clearly conservative profile
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© press.vatican.va

If you want a conservative pope you automatically end up with Robert Sarah. He does not get along with pope Francis. On at least two occasions, the two men clashed bitterly. In 2016, Sarah, as head of the department that deals with liturgical matters, didn’t like the fact that Francis washed a Muslim woman’s feet. This happened during the traditional foot washing on Good Friday.

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In 2020, Sarah published a book stating that celibacy must not be compromised at all. The book was released precisely at a time when Francis had to decide on the thorny issue of celibacy. Extra spicy: the book was initially written together with pope emeritus Benedict.

Sarah is a fighter. Since he became Archbishop of Conakry at the age of 34, he fought for the independence of the church from the autocratic regime and despite the persecution of priests and lay people, he did not shy away from making speeches against political power.

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Chimney (yellow circle) of the Sistine Chapel known for the conclave © Original italystart.com Photo

In 2001, he was brought to Rome, where he became Secretary (second in command) of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a busy department dealing mainly with ‘developing countries’. In 2010 he was appointed the first cardinal in the history of the Church of Guinea.

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He sees a special role for Africa, which “could become the spearhead of the Church’s resistance to Western decadence”. He hates gender ideology. “In some African countries, ministries for gender theory have been set up in exchange for economic support. This policy is all the more repugnant because the majority of the African population is defenceless, at the mercy of fanatical Western ideologues”. He compared contemporary western views on homosexuality and abortion as well as “Islamist fanaticism” to Nazism and communism.

This certainly makes him the spearhead of the conservatives. He was removed from his job six months after his 75th birthday in 2021. It is the duty of every bishop to offer his resignation to the pope for reaching retirement age. If the pope accepts it immediately, it is usually a sign that the pope wants to get rid of you.


Christoph Schönborn

can afford to criticise
  • CountryAustria
  • Year of birth: 1945
  • Age: 78
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 1998 (by pope John Paul II)
  • Why: political-religious center position
  • Why not: was not elected twice before, European
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Cardinal Schönborn was a strong candidate for the papacy (and still has chances) © Original italystart.com Photo

Schönborn was one of the favourites during the conclaves of the 21st century (2005 and 2013), even though he never received many votes in practice. He owes his popularity to the middle position he occupies. He is seen as an intelligent theologian with strong traditional views, but also with a balanced reforming spirit.

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Preparations for the conclave in the Sistine Chapel © Original italystart.com Photo

He is known for his tolerant views and his openness to dialogue. For example, he had words of praise for his compatriot Conchita Wurst, a self-proclaimed drag queen (female appearance with beard), who won the European song contest in 2014.

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In 2021, the Archbishop of Vienna criticised the Vatican’s ban earlier that year on blessing homosexual relationships. “A mother will not deny her children a sincerely requested blessing. Neither will the mother church. Whether a church blessing is always the right form of expression is something that still needs to be given careful consideration.”


Luis Antonio Tagle

goodie two-shoes of the class
  • CountryPhilippines
  • Year of birth: 1957
  • Age: 66 (June 2023)
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2012 (by pope Benedict)
  • Why: dynamic, from ‘grow market’ Asia, in line with current pope, strong political profile
  • Why not: too young, too ambitious
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Antonio Tagle © press.vatican.va

Update: The pope sidelined Tagle as president of Caritas International in late November 2022, possibly because of mismanagement of this important aid organisation. It is too early to say whether Tagle is now out of favour. Just a few months earlier, the pope trusted him as one of the two pro-prefects of the Dicastery for Evangelization, a dicastery that the pope personally presides over (a unique feature).

You can say what you like about the Roman Catholic Church, but not that it is a closed white bastion. Strong candidates come from the non-Western world. One of the most brilliant people is this young cardinal from the Philippines, the most Catholic country in Asia.

Asia is the future of the Catholic Church, that by the way is also the continent where Jesus was born. Europe and also America are engaged in a relentless move towards secularism. Africa, though a growing Catholic territory, is a problematic continent.

Roman Catholic church in Mandalay (Myanmar) © Original italystart.com Photo

After having been Archbishop of Manila, Tagle started a shining career in the Vatican. This led him to two important positions. First, he was made director of Caritas internationalis, the most important Catholic relief organisation in the world. With that, you make friends everywhere.

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In 2019, Tagle was appointed head of the important Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. This department, which was once called Propaganda Fide, deals with most of the so-called developing countries. Bishop appointments in Africa and Asia are also prepared by Tagle and not by Ouellet (chief of the Congregation for Bishops).

Tagle has ties with both the United States, where he studied for seven years, and China, where his mother comes from. He therefore has a strong political profile. Tagle gets on extremely well with pope Francis. They have more or less the same mind set. Whoever wants the line of Francis to be continued after his death or abdication will find Tagle a good one. The disadvantage of being the teacher’s favourite at school is that it can evoke jealousy from the other pupils…

Another barrier is his age. Tagle is about the age when Karol Wojtyla became pope. The Polish prelate stood at the helm for almost 28 years and thus left his mark (a bit too much, some say) on the papacy.

Read official information on all statistics about the College of Cardinals.


Peter Turkson

risks exiting the conclave as a cardinal
  • CountryGhana
  • Year of birth: 1948
  • Age: 74
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2003 (by pope John Paul II)
  • Why: strong on interreligious matters, (ex-)chief of the Human Development dept.
  • Why not: barrier of first black popetur
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© press.vatican.va

Update – December 23, 2021: Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Turkson as head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The resignation is surprising, even though it comes at the end of his five-year term (January 1, 2022). The resignation has probably to do with an internal investigation into the department, which had begun in June 2021.

Since 2016, Turkson has been a man to be reckoned with, when he was appointed by pope Francis as the head of the newly-formed ‘Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’ (an amalgamation of four departments). It is a ‘soft’ department, it has little money and jobs to distribute, but it is a curial department with a future as long as Francis’ line continues.

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Turkson was no stranger to the world before 2016 either. At the age of 55, he became a cardinal, the first from Ghana in history. A few years later, he became head of the Congregation for Justice, a department that was later absorbed into the Human Development department. His approach to interreligious dialogue is very strong, partly because he himself comes from a mixed family of faith. His mother was from the Methodist Church, so Protestant, and his father Roman Catholic. He had a paternal uncle who was Muslim.

Balcony of habemus papam. © Original italystart.com Photo

Turkson has long been known to be papabile, as is the Italian term for someone who has a chance of being Pope (from the Italian word ‘papa’ = pope). It may have something to do with the fact that the (non specialized) press pushes for a black pope as that would look modern.

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That is a dangerous stance. A popular expression in Italian is: “Who enters the conclave as a pope, exits as a cardinal” i.e. favourites often stumble. At the beginning of the millennium, Francis Arinze (Nigeria, 1932) was frequently mentioned as a papabile, but received no votes at all in the 2005 conclave.

Like many African prelates, Turkson is quite conservative in moral matters. He is certainly a critical of neo-liberalism. Cardinal Turkson has worked out a proposal to reform the international financial system by creating a kind of global government authority and a World Bank that take into account the interests of all developing countries. He criticises the current structure of the International Monetary Fund and other institutions.


Matteo Zuppi

wet behind the ears
  • CountryItaly
  • Year of birth: 1955
  • Age: 67
  • Cardinal’s nomination: 2019 (by pope Francis)
  • Why: progressive, strong priesthood, head Italian bischop’s conference
  • Why not: too young, too unknown, few achievements
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© press.vatican.va

Update: Zuppi was appointed by the Pope as the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference on May 24, 2022. This is a position of great visibility, as this national bishops’ conference is the most important in the world. He is also pope Francis’ special envoy to seek peace in Ukraine. 

With Italians making up some 20 per cent of the College of Cardinals, the Italian bloc is to be reckoned with. Should they want a compatriot as next pope (but nationality is not a decisive element), Zuppi could score highly.

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Zuppi, too, is a man of Francis, since he owes his position to him (the only one of two of our candidates to be made cardinal by Francis). The Bishop of Bologna is seen as a vibrant priest. For the rest, his curriculum vitae is rather thin. You could say that he is still a bit wet behind the ears. That is my play on words (the Italian word ‘zuppi’ means something like soggy or wet).

Pope Francis greets the world from his office in St Peter’s Square © Vatican Media

He is close to the progressive lay movement of Sant’Egidio, which started in the 1960s in Rome, Zuppi’s birthplace, and is now a rather powerful club inside the catholic church. Despite his progressive views, he is not afraid to celebrate the so-called Tridentine Mass of ultra-conservative catholics. This mass, entirely in Latin, dates back to the 16th century, and was taken over by the new mass order in the second half of the 20th century.

Read everything about the pope election in conclave.

Former ‘papabili’

We started this list in 2021 with a few candidates who we now believe are no longer ‘papabile’ or have a chance of becoming the next pope:

A. Marc Ouellet: runner-up with limited time

© press.vatican.va
  • Country: Canada
  • Year of Birth: 1944
  • Why: many voters at last conclave (2013), pastoral and curial experience
  • Why not: limited charisma, old age

Marc Ouellet is one of the cardinals who is close to the Pope. Literally, as is shown by the Pope’s agenda, which is published daily by the press office.

The Canadian prelate lives in the Vatican. That is not the only reason. If you live in a village like the Vatican City, for that is what it is by size of population, you quickly run into each other. It is mainly because of his position as head of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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The first position means that he has a big finger in the pie as to who will become a bishop, especially in the western world. Every year, hundreds of such appointments take place. His second top job gives him a strong position in South America, an important Catholic continent. That makes him possible as a candidate of both Americas.

He will have to relinquish both jobs soon, because bishops generally retire at the age of 75. Age is not really in Ouellet’s favour.

However, his relations with all continents in the catholic world and his soft way of operating (there are no known scandals or questionable statements made by him) make him a candidate. He has no great charisma, but a friendly and empathetic character. What is definitely in his favour is that in the 2013 conclave Ouellet received the third most votes from his colleagues.

Update (August 19, 2022):  A class-action lawsuit filed in Canada named Ouellet as the alleged assailant of an unnamed woman, F., who accused the cleric of kissing her at a cocktail reception in 2008. Today, Pope Francis states that after a internal investigation there is not sufficient evidence to open a canon investigation for sexual assault by cardinal Ouellet.

B. Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga: fingers in the pie

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© press.vatican.va
  • Country: Honduras
  • Year of birth: 1942
  • Why: spider in the web, top of mind
  • Why not: too ambitious, ambiguous judgement of management

Update: Changes are dimming as Rodriguez Maradiaga became 80 years old on December 29, 2022 (but there is no age limit for being elected pope).

The odds for Rodriguez Maradiaga are getting smaller every year. He is approaching 80 years of age (although no age limit exists for being elected pope). But if not for his age, the Honduran cardinal certainly has chances. It is a miracle in itself that the first Honduran cardinal in history, who therefore comes from an undistinguished country, can finish so high.

He has a good mix of pastoral and managerial skills. He taught at the school of the Salesians, a religious order of which he is a member. He has been a bishop for more than 40 years. He is preeminent in the Latin American Church. Between 2007 and 2015, he was the head of the international Caritas, a powerful aid organisation.

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Rodriguez Maradiaga has been trusted by both Pope Benedict XVI and Francis. That in itself is an achievement, because the political line of both popes is very different. Pope Francis has given the Honduran a central position at the Holy See by appointing him chief of the newly created advisory body of cardinals in 2013. That role was reaffirmed in 2020.

The Honduran has been accused of financial mismanagement in his country. This may have to do with his criticism of the Honduran president at the time (2010). In 2001, Rodriguez Maradiaga issued the bold statement that the North American abuse crisis within the Catholic Church would have been a Jewish conspiracy

(Un)certain about the next pope

Papal elections are often surprising. The favourites of the last conclave (2013) missed out on the top prize. The only thing that is certain is that the next pope will be number 267 in the line of succession (number 1 is Peter).

We will keep the list up to date and, if necessary, remove candidates from our top list and include others. We are, of course, open to comments.

Finally, some key points on the subject of who will be the next Pope:

Who can be elected pope?

Candidates need to be male and baptised. For the last centuries, the cardinals have been choosing the next pope from among themselves. There are about 120 electors (cardinals younger than 80 years of age), although currently the number is around 130.

Will the next pope be black?

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Over 12 per cent of the College of Cardinals have a black skin color. A black pope is therefore possible. Peter Turkson from Ghana has some chances.

How is the next pope chosen?

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The pope is elected by cardinals in conclave, i.e. in the enclosed space of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The candidate with a 2/3 majority becomes pope. The voting process generally takes 1-2 days.

Who are the leading cardinal candidates?

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The main candidates who stand a chance of becoming the next pope are: Peter Erdö, Mario Grech, Pietro Parolin, Christoph Schönborn and Matteo Zuppi (Europe), Robert Sarah and Peter Turkson (Africa) and Antonio Tagle (Asia).

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Ewout is an Italy expert who has written thousands of articles for Dutch media as a correspondent and has published 10 books on wide-ranging topics such as Rome, the Vatican, Tuscany, Italian brands and Italian women.

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84 thoughts on “Who will be the next Pope? 8 main candidates”

  1. I would add Mgr Ambongo. His voice is strong in his own country (where he is the only counter-power to the government) and in the world, specially since he united the bishop of Africa against Fiducia Supplicans, and beyond. He is the president of the conference of bishops of Africa.

  2. As a faithful atheist Hungarian citizen, I cannot assess the ecclesiastical activities of Péter Erdő, but as a human, yes: he is a despicable scoundrel. The very idea is quite amusing that someone expects a despicable scoundrel to solve the problems of the Catholic Church!

  3. I do not agree with some stances.
    Sarah was a conservative profile (not a traditionals, so a good choice, not the best), but after some claim he just gave up for loyality to the Pope/Chruch. Is it good? Maybe yes, but he lost that profile.
    Schonborn WAS a conservative, maybe 20ys ago, now, and from a decades, is a progressive one. Maybe a moderate for dialogue, but noway a conservative.
    Zuppi unknow? No way he is unknow, at the opposite I think he is the classical too white who will leave the Conclave red. At least you could update the list on his new role of president of the CEI (which non of the president has ever became Pope). Maybe too well know in ITaly than rest of the world? Yes, but I would not use this argument neither after he was appointed nuntio in the U/R war.
    Maybe the most conservative profile is Erdo. The progressive Tagle, who will have the votes from the 30th spt. Zuppi has a chance as moderate profile, Not only the ideas but also how to execute, where the Pope is even worse, and MAybe Zuppi could convince collegue he is the right one.
    Thanks for this contribute, one of the few I found,

    • Ciao Giulio,

      Thank you very much for your contribution.

      As for Zuppi: indeed, his star is rising now that he has become head of the CEI. Zuppi is very well known in Italy, you’re right, but really I don’t know if it’s the same outside. It does help that he is busy as a peace envoy (and may be able to show some results -possibly having some Ukrainian children brought back).

      Surely I didn’t think I was portraying Schoenborn as a conservative. In any case, given his age, among other things, he, and also Sarah, are actually quite unlikely a pope contender.

      I was at the ‘after’-consistorio today (September 30, 2023), and spoke briefly with Cardinal Pizzabella. He would be another nice surprise.
      I’d like to hear you if you want to comment.

  4. Cardinal Krajewski. Due to the war in Ukraine, there is a great chance of making russian world closer to the Rome than Moscow. Ukraine needs billions of dollars for reconstruction. Money from Rome will put pressure on Orthodox church to come closer to Catholics.

  5. Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Galicia, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, at 53, is only five years younger than John Paul II was when he was elected. Shevchuk has served in Buenos Aires and maintains close relations with Pope Francis. The elevation of Shevchuk would certainly send a message to the world.

  6. I’m sorry, I keep hearing Tagle and I think it is fanciful at best. I have spoken to some and the feeling I am getting is that he is the student that stays 30 minutes after class to clean the chalkboard and ask for extra work. It is somewhat irritating to the instructor and profoundly annoying to others in class. I also do not believe the College of Cardinals wants to be saddled with a 30 year pontificate. Moreover, the more the conservative faction is saddled with Francis, the more they will rebel and meeting in the middle will not amount to Tagle. Of course, we all have opinions.

    • Hi Chris,
      I do agree with you in part, as I also wrote in this piece below. A 20- or 30-year pontificate is a big risk for an organization. I think it would be a good sign though if an Asian candidate became pope, also because Asia bears more future (for the RC Church) than the ‘old world’.

      • I dont think that either the conservative or the progressive favourites will be elected, if there will be a conclave in the next 3 years. So I think there could be some surprise happening. I expect a moderate progressive next pope, continuing the line of Franciscus, but trying to avoid any schisma. And I really think it could be time for an experienced asian cardinal, who is not as young as Cardinal Tagle. So my thoughts go to Cardinal You, who could be a very promising choice, especially after the book he published recently, and even after his growing influence in Rome. He could be the “dark horse” in a conclave and his age of 72 is positive, too, not too young, not too old, very good connections to many parts of the world, and a very positive, spiritual, loving energy

      • Dear Andreas,

        Thanks for your contribution.

        For readers who do not know this cardinal, Lazarus You Heung-sik was made cardinal by the pope a year ago (2022). He is from South Korea and is the first from this country to head a papal department (Dicastery for the Clergy).

        The book Andreas is talking about is ‘As the lightning comes from the East’ on his life as a layman, priest and bishop in South Korea. You emphasizes the richness of Asian Catholicism from which the West could draw new strength. Such a message obviously does well. We’ll keep an eye on him. Thanks, Andreas

  7. Hi Ewout,
    I appreciate your sharing and a place to share together, thanks!

    In addition to what you already stated, Hollerich seems to want to be Pope: regardless of candidates politely stating otherwise publicly, as evidenced by his recently demanding the release of Bp Rolando and the other detainees in Nicaragua (i.e., a global leadership tone), and his reported recent retraction of previous calls for revision on church teaching in relation to homosexuality / LGBTQ (appeasing conservatives Catholics and nations such as Africa and Asia), and his only recently deciding to go on an United States Midwest pastoral tour (deep pockets for Holy See) — even though four of his predecessors did the same due to Midwest ancestral roots in Luxemburg, and Hollerich’s Old World leadership and readiness to transform obstacles into opportunities such as the complete separation of church and state in Luxemburg in 2015, stating: “It’s a new reality and we need to get more humble.”

    • Hi Andy, DiNardo has the right age (73), may be too much of a conservative (for a field of cardinals created by Francis).
      I think it is problematic to have a North American pope, simply because the United States is still the world’s superpower. In a US pope, two powers would come together, and that would be too much of a good thing.

  8. Cardinal Vince Nichols of the UK? Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England are declining rapidly, largely through apathy. His appointment might cause a resurgence of the faithful. It could also bring many back to the true faith. Of course he may not get the support…………..

    • Thanks for your interesting suggestion, David. However, I don’t think Nichols stands much of a chance, even though he does seem to be held in esteem by the pope, and he is still archbishop, despite having tendered his resignation almost 3 years ago (75 years as the rule goes).
      In the past, Cardinal Nichols has faced quite a backlash from the faithful in England, hasn’t he (handling of abuse cases, for example)?

    • V N is certainly hanging on in Westminster. So far he has done over three years of ‘extra time’. Whether this is good or bad, who knows?

    • Probably not and isn’t it time that he stepped down as archbishop of Westminster? The church in England and Wales needs new blood.

  9. How about a really left field choice? Cardinal Vince Nichols of the UK? Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England are declining rapidly, largely through apathy. His appointment might cause a resurgence of the faithful. It could also bring many back to the true faith. Of course he may not get the support…………..

  10. Talk of the next conclave seems to be festering. I am updating my list. I see the things looking as if it will be Tagle, Erdo, and Parolin as the top attractions. Turkson losing some steam, but still a contender. I have entered Kevin Farrell into my stable as a dark horse because he seems to have a quiet profile with a lot of responsibility. The younger blood who are getting some press are Zuppi, Grech and Hollerich, but I think all three may be premature. Still viewing Filoni, Bo, Aguiar Retes and Schonborn as compromise candidates.

    • Hi John,

      Your input is always of great value. Cardinals such as Zuppi and Grech may be too young now, but as it looks like Pope Francis does not know of giving up (and he is right), it goes to increase the chances of the young.

      Ouellet suing his accuser for libel does not strike me as being of hight ‘Popish’ attitude.

      I will update my top eight soon. Please come back and watch.

  11. Well, while I have deep respect for him, I don’t think Card. Schönborn would accept anyway. He has just recovered from cancer and resigned as head of the Austrian bishops conference.

    • Danke für Ihre Einschätzung.
      It sounds perhaps a bit lighthearted, but Schonborn was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, and I haven’t heard anything about it since. Resigned as president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference need not be a problem in itself. His age (almost 78) may be an issue.

  12. Join his age, the group of candidates their age. We need a secondary asking the group of the Joiners make a mark on the wish upon need. Don’t we talk to the candidates? Wish is easy when we secondary ask upon need. Wish is his candidates the same God looks upon marks. Don’t the same make a line of asking the group of candidates the join mark the God need. We talk their age and mark and wish to make the line of wheel.

  13. Can I be biased because I am asian I am rooting for Cardinal Tagle as next Pope. I have this strange feeling that 2023 will have another Papal conclave.

  14. An important name is missing in your list: Michael Czerny S.J., 76, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Czerny is a Canadian born in former Czechoslovachia. His mother came from a Jewish family. He has also lived in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Spokane (Washington), San Salvador, Nairobi (Kenya), and, of course, Rome. He speaks English, French, Spanish and Italian fluently.

    • Hi Normand,

      Thanks for your excellent suggestion. The only thing that speaks against the Jesuit Czerny is that he is sort of a copy of the current pope – that may work to his advantage or disadvantage, and his age (76 years old).

    • I dont think that either the conservative or the progressive favourites will be elected, if there will be a conclave in the next 3 years. So I think there could be some surprise happening. I expect a moderate progressive next pope, continuing the line of Franciscus, but trying to avoid any schisma. And I really think it could be time for an experienced asian cardinal, who is not as young as Cardinal Tagle. So my thoughts go to Cardinal You, who could be a very promising choice, especially after the book he published recently, and even after his growing influence in Rome. He could be the “dark horse” in a conclave and his age of 72 is positive, too, not too young, not too old, very good connections to many parts of the world, and a very positive, spiritual, loving energy…

  15. “In 2001, Rodriguez Maradiaga issued the bold statement that the North American abuse crisis within the Catholic Church would have been a Jewish conspiracy.”

    This statement, if actually uttered, would actually be considered less “bold” and more hateful, racist, and unbecoming of clergy. Such hateful rhetoric only hastens the church’s ultimate irrelevance.

  16. My opinion based on Rev 17:9-11 is that the present pope is the eighth and the last pope (head of the church). Since 1798, when the beast (The Popery) was and is not (Rev 17:8), there have been eight (pluss one antipope) pope names: 1 Pius, 2 Leo, 3 Gregory, 4 Benedict, 5 John, 6 Paul, 7 John Paul, (Benedict XVI antipope), 8 Francis. Adding up the papal suffixes (number of the beast) of each of this popes, we end up with the number 666. At Jonh Paul II the number had added up to 665. Since Benedict was the fourth name on the list and five was fallen (Rev 17:10), Benedict XVI was predicted by God to be fallen, and fallen he became. His prefix XVI do not count. It had to come a last pope with a name never before used giving a count of one so that 665 + 1 add up to 666. I was shocked when Francis took a name never before used as papal name.

    • It looks a bit like cabala what you are doing. The removal of the number ’16’ from the Benedict suffix seems to be questionable in this formula. According to the text (see further), the last pope would be short-lived. But Francis has been pope for almost 10 years…

      “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.”

  17. I think after the accusations of Ouellet have been made public, there is a ZERO percentage of him becoming the next pope. The risk would be too great, even if there is a 1% chance anything she has said is true. I am taking him off all my lists.

  18. Cardinal Sarah is by far (in my opinion) the most qualified to be the next pope. He is a strong fighter against pedophile, super conservative and he would definitely make the church traditionally strong.

    • Hi Francisco,

      The chances of the pope not being a bishop are virtually eliminated.
      In fact, since 1962 (papal doicument ‘Cum gravissima’) it has been mandatory that to become a cardinal one must first be consecrated a bishop. In the past, priests and even laymen could also become cardinals (and popes).

      An exception is Ernest Simoni from Albania (born 1928), who received dispensation and remained a priest after being ‘created’ a cardinal.

  19. I believe the next pope will come from the English speaking world. Look no further than Canada! Could a Bishop become Pope?

  20. The next pope could well be Pietro Parolin. Could this be the “Peter The Roman”? The final pope depicted in the Irish St Malachy’s prophecies?

    • That is and nice thought of yours.
      You could also argue: since it is not in the interest of the cardinals and the church that the world comes to an end, the cardinals will do everything they can NOT to elect someone with the baptismal name Peter.

      By an aside, Parolin is not from Rome, but comes from a municipality not far from Venice.

      • Hi, I don’t know how to comment here so I’m just gonna reply here. But I just wanna say that Cardinal Tagle do really have a very strong political profile. And in fact Duterte, the current president of the Philippines claimed that the Pope removed Tagle from his position because of him meddling in politics. Years/months later, the Pope even promoted Tagle. Tagle made Filipino government officials by his views, I guess.


      • Dear Leonard,

        It seems very unlikely to me that Pope FRanciscus would lend his ear to Duarte, they are the opposite of each other.

        If he wanted to ‘punish’ Tagle for being too political, he would certainly not bring him to the Vatican. That is rather a sign of recognition.

      • It is one of those ‘theories’ about the end of the world related to the RC Church.
        Another is that when all the ‘Pope’s medallions’ in St Paul’s Church outside the Walls in Rome are filled, the world will end. We still have time. To my knowledge, there are still 8 medallions not filled.

        “The Prophecy of the Popes is a series of 112 short, cryptic phrases in Latin which purport to predict the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few antipopes), beginning with Celestine II. It was first published in 1595 by Benedictine monk Arnold Wion, who attributed the prophecy to Saint Malachy, a 12th-century archbishop of Armagh.

        The prophecy concludes with a pope identified as “Peter the Roman”, whose pontificate will allegedly precede the destruction of the city of Rome.” (taken from wikipedia)

      • I have often thought about this prophecy insofar as several leading candidates are named Peter in one form or another, Parolin, Erdo, Turkson, & Scherer (who was mentioned often in 2013 but failed to produce votes). The likelihood that one of them will be elected is fair.

      • Maybe you’ll be right.
        As a matter of fact, what is also possible, though unlikely (would seem a bit presumptuous) is that a new pope would call himself Peter (II), and his successors would take that name as well. That way we’ll soon come to the end of the world. 🙂

  21. Christoph Cardinal Schonborn is still the brightest star in the College of Cardinals. One hopes that his colleagues will be sensible enough to concede this and electrical him, despite the age handicap. Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Tagle are all right where they are, probably having reached their zenith.

    • Ciao Richard,

      Thanks for your remark. Schönborn is quite bright, you’re right, but I give him not much chance anymore (although I listed him as ‘papabile’). I don’t think that the College of Cardinals will chose an in-between pope. Because that Schönborn would be.

  22. I don’t see Sarah or Maradiaga as having a shot. The clock is ticking for Ouellet, Schonbern and O’Malley (who was not mentioned here, but has a lot of support and backers). I think the first ballot will be a test of the candidacy of Tagle, Erdo, Ouellet, Parolin and Turkson. Erdo was surprisingly absent from your list but is the conservative with the best chances of becoming the next pope because of his brilliance and respect. However, I do believe this is a critical year for many veteran papabili are aging out and many new ones are what may seems to be too young. We must remember that both Paul VI and John Paul the 1st were both 65 when they were elected. The same age Tagle turns this year. One lasted only 33 days, so there is no guarantee to electing a young one that he will last long nor that an old one would have a short reign (Benedict would be pope longer than Paul VI had he not retired and he was elected at 78. I also wouldn’t count out Filoni or Braz de Aviz as compromises or Bo and Aguilar Retes as dark horses. Picking Papabili is a hobby of mine. I picked both Bergolio as pope and the name Francis in 2013. I could have won a lot of money if I placed the bet in Vegas or Paddy Power if I was able to make the bet . . . I tried! Great Summary, I appreciate it!!!

    • Hi John,

      Your analysis are very interesting! The fact that you foresaw that Bergoglio would become pope in 2013 is a huge plus on your knowledge of papal candidates. Almost no Vatican watcher, including John Allen (who I think highly of), had Bergoglio on his short list. Really chapeau.

      I am therefore happy to follow your suggestions. Erdo I certainly do have in my sights, actually since he headed the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe in 2006. He is, especially for European voters, a contender.

      However, I’m not entirely convinced by the other four you mention: Braz de Aviz, Filoni, Bo and Aguilar Retes. I’m going to give them some more thought.

      I also see chances for Omella (Spain), of course only if the Cardinal College go for a ‘progressive’ pope.
      How do you estimate his chances?

      • I think the 4 I mention that you are not convinced of are my second tier guys. All competent and all electable as a track their following.

        As for Omella, he is getting older with a limited circle of influentials. I had vetted him and still have an eye on him. This is an interesting time, as I have mentioned as some cardinals are aging out for those like us to assess what younger cardinals are gaining steam and esteem in the college!

      • I can’t take the credit for Bergoglio without saying that he was my pick if the conclave did not elect someone by the 5th day. I thought he would emerge after a conclave that exhausted vetting on certain candidates. What my tipping point was were the congregations. I paid close attention to everything that was going on and who was saying what. If Bergoglio didn’t get it, I think O’Malley would have.
        The Francis name I predicted for whoever won because the saying out there was that this new pope has to rebuild the church, a key reference to the name Francis.

  23. I do think that the next election will become a clash between the traditional side and the progressive side on church teaching(Homosexuality, women rights in church, Trad Latin Mass). I guess it would be the deciding factor instead of race, skin colour, origins etc.

    • Thanks for your comment. You’re right that the choice is also about the future of the church, so about different views between traditionalists and those with a renewalist line. But it’s not the only thing that matters.
      I’ve put together a simple little chart that I think shows all the factors that play into a pope’s choice.
      See: https://italystart.com/vatican-secrets/ (paragraph 6)

      Best regards,

    • Hi Phil, the choice for yet another Jesuit, only the second in history, is small indeed. But if Hollerich, the Jesuit in question, really does have very strong cards, his ‘affiliation’ need not be a deciding factor (or blocker).

      • Tagle went to a seminary and a university that are both run by Jesuits. This may explain why he and Pope Francis get along so well. In fact many Filipinos assume that Tagle is a Jesuit because he continues to work closely with the Society of Jesus in the Philippines.

      • That fact, his deep connection to Pope Francis, may increase his chances. Or diminish them, if the College of Cardinals does not want a “clone” (excusez le mot) as its successor.

  24. The next pope must teach Gods words, guys must not be allowed in churches
    I believe the Bible states all. I would be the best pope in modern world…

    • Interesting choice, Christian. Why do you think he has a great chance of becoming Pope?

      Short info on Hollerich for those reading:
      He is a 63-year-old cardinal from Luxembourg, just about the smallest state in the world after the Vatican. He has been the president of the Comece (which includes all the national bishops’ conferences in the European Union). This makes Hollerich a familiar face to his European colleagues. Last summer, Pope Francis appointed him as the so called ‘relator’ for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in October 2023. Then he can demonstrate his abilities as a leader to his peers from around the world, and beyond.


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