After weeks of deliberation, the formal process that will elect the next Pope has been set for next Tuesday.
And now, for the first time, we're beginning to see a clear favorite.
La Stampa's Vatican Insiderhas published an article from respected reporter Andrea Tornielli that reports that Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola has become "Papabile."
Crucially, Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, can draw support not just from the Italian cardinals, but also bridge the gap with some American Cardinals, who have reportedly been seeking more reforms than Vatican-based Cardinals.
"[Scola] has been considered one of the possible candidates for the Papal Seat right from the beginning," Tornielli writes. "The votes of several American cardinals and of other European cardinal electors, from Germany to Eastern Europe, as well as those of some Italians, could be cast for him."
La Repubblica concurs with Tornielli, estimating that Scola has around 40 cardinals — including many who seek reform in the church — backing him so far.
Today online markets appear to be reflecting Scola's changing status. Paddy Power now lists him as the clear favorite with 3/1 odds, pulling away from Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Tasisio Bertone. These numbers can't be flat-out ignored — as Matthew Zeitlin explained over at the Daily Beast, Paddy Power allows large bets, and as such it is possible that those with inside information could be placing bets on Scola.
Well-respected by Pope Benedict, the 71-year-old Scola is considered an ideological heir. While his doctrinal views are considered conservative, he is known for social advocacy on issues like immigration and poverty, and has spoken out in favor of dialogue with the Islamic community.
One of Scola's key strengths is also one of his biggest weaknesses — he is Italian. While Europeans, and especially Italians, will dominate the papal conclave, a big question is whether the push for a non-European, "New World" Pope will gain serious traction.
If it does, Scola may have a serious competitor — both La Repubblica and La Stampa have pointed to Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Archbishop of São Paulo, as another candidate being seriously considered.
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