Pope's nationality not key factor: Brazil prelate

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 14 2013 08:17 AM | Updated as of Feb 14 2013 04:17 PM

SAO PAULO - Nationality and age should not be key factors in choosing who will succeed Benedict XVI, a Brazilian cardinal considered in the running to be the future pope said here Wednesday.

Much more important will be the candidate's capacity to lead the Roman Catholic Church "at a time of great challenges," Sao Paulo archbishop Odilo Scherer told a press conference.

"In the last papal election, the (nationality) issue was on the agenda, the possibility still exists. Now we could also have a pope from either Latin America, Africa, Asia, or Europe," he noted.

But the pope's geographic origin is not "a key issue", he stressed. "More important will be whether he will be the right person to lead the church at this moment of its history."

Monday, Benedict XVI, the German-born leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, made the shock announcement that he would resign on February 28 due to old age, after less than eight years as pope, one of the shortest pontificates in modern history.

Ordained cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007, Scherer heads Brazil's largest archdiocese with five million Catholics.

Brazil has an estimated 125 million Catholics out of a total population of 194 million, making it the country with the world's largest Roman Catholic population.

Scherer, 63, stressed that the Catholic church had faced challenges throughout its 2,000-year-old history but now needed to tackle the challenge of "post-modernity."

He said he was referring to "a culture without solid reference values" and to a subjectivity "which leads to total relativism."

Local press reports have named Scherer as one of the Brazilian cardinals who could succeed Benedict XVI.

The Rio archbishop said it would be "very presumptuous" on his part to say that he was "a candidate, prepared" to be the next pope.

"This will be for others to decide," he said.

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