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New pope from Latin America, Africa?

world Updated: Feb 12, 2013 00:10 IST

Reuters
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With Pope Benedict's stunning announcement that he will resign later this month, the time may be coming for the Roman Catholic Church to elect its first non-European leader and it could be a Latin American.

The region already represents 42% of the world's 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25% in its European heartland.

Two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. "I know a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin America who could take responsibility for the universal Church," said Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who now holds the pope's old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, told the Tagesanzeiger daily in Zurich at the same time that the Church's future was not in Europe.

"It would be good if there were candidates from Africa or South America," he said.

Meanwhile, Francis Arinze of Nigeria, Peter Turkson of Ghana and Marc Ouellet of Canada were among the cardinals hotly tipped by bookmakers on Monday to take over from Pope Benedict XVI. William Hill bookmakers named 80-year-old Arinze as their favourite to replace the pontiff with odds of 2-1, followed by Turkson at 5-2.