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High Hopes For Latin American Pope As Conclave Date Emerges

posted 8 Mar 2013, 11:40 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Mar 2013, 11:40 ]

Latin Americans attending a mass in Rome for late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez welcome news of a date for papal conclave, and hope their prayers for a Latin American pope will be answered.

 ROMEITALY (MARCH 8, 2013)(REUTERS) -  Members of Rome's Latin American community gathered for a mass in memory of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez on Friday (March 8), but for many their thoughts were looking to the future as a date was announced for the papal conclave.

Many of the congregation gathered in the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti said they hoped the conclave would end with the announcement of a Latin American pope.

There's a strong chance their prayers will be answered. The region already represents 42 percent of the world's 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in its European heartland.

If the next conclave really is Latin America's turn, the leading candidates there seem to be Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paolo, or the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, now heading the Vatican department for Eastern Churches.

Venezuelan Massimo Migani has been living in Italy for 10 years, but hopes the next pontiff will come from Latin America rather than his adopted home. He said a Latin American pope would give a fresh approach to the church.

"To have a pope who will bring a new message, a message that comes from a different continent," he said.

Venezuelan priest Father Giancarlo Loaiza, said he hoped the new pope could bring a fresh sense of leadership.

"Overall the election of the new pope is a great joy for the Venezuelan people, and when we talk about the Venezuelan church, we are talking about a church that is rooted in Latin America, and we should be able to understand that from the head of the institution, in this case the Holy Father, the church can become much more active. In the particular case of Venezuela what we expect is the general unity of all Catholics," he said.

Visiting priest Father Marco Fernandez has been eagerly awaiting news of the conclave date - and looks forward to a new pope being in place in time for Easter.

"We're all waiting, because we truly want to have a new pope, which the conclave is going to elect, to celebrate Easter. It brings us a lot of joy, because the church always needs to have a leader - to follow the good and hard work of Benedict XVI," he said.

Venezuelan Cardinal, Archbishop of Caracas Jorge Urosa Savino, said cardinals had spent their hours in pre-conclave meetings deeply considering who would be the best candidate.

"I hope that God will enlighten us and that he will strengthen us. In the general congregations we have been thinking about who will be the person called by God to become the person to govern the church in the coming years."

He said he was hopeful for the future of Venezuela with a new, constitutionally-elected President.

"I hope we all work for peace, that we all seek peace, because this is the obligation that each of us as Venezuelan citizens has - always in accordance with the national constitution," he said.

Dozens of members of the Venezuelan and Latin American community gathered for the mass to commemorate late President Hugo Chavez.