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Liberal Catholics in the U.S., meanwhile, were just as dissatisfied with many of the messages coming out of Rome. Many--including congregations of American nuns--are beginning to experiment with autonomy, much to the chagrin of the Holy See. The Vatican has faced these challenges either through stern talk and threats of discipline, in the case of the rebel nuns, or Benedict's less than fully realized re-evangelization policy in Europe.
Administratively, Benedict has attempted to make the workings of the Vatican Bank more transparent, a move that apparently upset elements of the Curia. Meanwhile, money-laundering investigations of the Holy See's finances by Italian officials have left the Vatican concerned about its sovereignty. That is enough to put the fear of God into St. Peter's.
I Papabili--"The Pope-Ables"--is the term coined by Italian journalists to describe Cardinals who are likely candidates for the papacy. Some of the favorites coming into the next conclave have remained on the short list since the previous transfer of power: Francis Arinze of Nigeria, now 80; Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, 76; Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, 70. All were made Cardinals by John Paul II in the late Pontiff's quest to broaden the geographic representation of the college. John Paul himself was the first non-Italian to become Pope since the 16th century Dutchman Adrian VI.
There are Cardinals who can fit the Benedictine specifications in Africa, Latin America and Asia, continents where the Catholic Church is much healthier than in secularized Europe and North America. Rodríguez of Honduras remains a betting favorite, while Bergoglio may have been eclipsed by another Argentine Cardinal, Leonardo Sandri, 69, who has held several important Vatican posts. Rodríguez and Sandri are relatively young and, in terms of social policy, well within the bounds of Ratzinger's ideology--one that remains consistent with that of John Paul II. Arinze of Nigeria, who has served in the Vatican bureaucracy for years, is still considered Pope-able, though he stepped down from his office in 2008, and semiretirement may make him less attractive in the aftermath of Benedict's abdication.
A number of intriguing names have emerged in the days since Benedict's surprise announcement. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, 64, was appointed to a Vatican post--president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace--in 2009. A scholar of Scripture like the current Pope, Turkson was the point man in the media ruckus after Benedict said condoms were not a solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa, arguing that the Pope's statement had been taken out of context. One minus: in the days after Benedict's announcement, several insiders interpreted Turkson's press interviews as campaigning for the papacy--a big no-no.