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Doing The Cardinal Math: Numbers Point To Another European Pope

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On this morning after the surprise announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning at the end of the month, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli looks at the numbers and concludes it's more than likely the next pope will be a European, just like nearly all the others.

Why?

As Sylvia told Morning Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer:

-- 117 cardinals are eligible to vote at the upcoming conclave (only those under the age of 80 can take part).

-- 61 are from Europe. That's 52 percent of the votes.

-- Of the 56 others: 19 are from Latin America, 14 are from North America, 11 are from Africa, 11 are from Asia and 1 is from Oceania.

What's more, the cardinals who will choose the next pope are all in their positions thanks to the German-born Benedict and his predecessor, Polish-born Pope John Paul II. It's hard to imagine those cardinals choosing "someone who would really veer" from those popes' views of the world and the church, Sylvia said.

Put the numbers and the cardinals' makeup together and, Sylvia concludes, "it will probably be a European." Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, is a leading contender.

Of course, as Benedict's resignation proves, the unexpected can happen. There are at least a couple candidates from outside Europe the cardinals might turn to, Sylvia says: Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, of Canada and Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, of Brazil.

European oddsmakers, by the way, aren't quite in sync with Sylvia on the likelihood of a European. They've got Ouellet as the 3-1 favorite, with Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana close behind at 7-2.

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