Vatican Confidencial: Where will the next Pope come from?

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The number of potential future popes continues to grow as 21 new names have been added to the Catholic Church's most exclusive club.

Pope Francis unexpectedly announced new additions to the College of Cardinals and confirmed they will be created at a Consistory on September 30. With these new additions, the Church will have a total of 243 cardinals, yet only 137 of those will have the right to vote for the next pope since they must be under the age of 80 to qualify as an elector. 

Traditionally, most cardinals are bishops, but this new batch had some surprises. It included Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime who is the head rector of the worldwide Salesian community. Not to mention the oldest addition, Fr. Luis Pascual—the 96-year-old Argentinian friar who has heard confessions everyday since he retired 16 years ago. 

Although age restricts some cardinals from voting for the next pope, all can participate in the General Congregations, which are internal meetings that take place just days before the Conclave. And these meetings become “the room where it happens.” Because strategies are discussed and the experience and prestige of the older cardinals is showcased. 

Even Pope Francis said that the main reforms he has implemented were proposed during the General Congregations. 

Together, these meetings combined with the Conclave are the keys to selecting the next pope. It's a position that for hundreds of years was held almost exclusively by Italians. But since the time of Pope John Paul II, a more international College of Cardinals has formed to match the expanding global nature of the Church. 

The most recent Conclave of 2013 is a prime example as the first pope from South America was chosen. 

Beyond that, there are more African, South American and Asian cardinals than ever before. For example, the number of cardinal electors from Asia will nearly double after the September consistory. Thsi diversity is something that has been a mark of Francis' pontificate since the moment of his election. 

You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the Earth to get one... but here we are...

Needless to say, with the growing number of cardinals from around the world, who knows where the next pope will hail from?


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