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Many wonder if cardinals will elect first pope of color

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 11 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 12 2013 05:32:09 AM CDT

The process of electing the next pope begins Tuesday in what is known as the conclave.

The process of electing the next pope begins Tuesday in what is known as the conclave.

For the first time in more than 1,000 years, the Catholic church may end up with a non-European pope.

The last non-European pope to lead the Catholic church was Gregory III from Syria and that was more than 1,200 years ago.

However, with a growing number of Catholics residing in the Southern hemisphere, many experts are saying it's time for a change.

Soon, it will be in the hands of 115 cardinals to choose amongst themselves who will be the next pope.

Even though the Vatican hasn't released any list of potential first-runners, many believe he won't be European.

"It's the southern hemisphere where the Catholic church is growing the fastest, in Africa and Central and South America," said Matt Kerr, director of communications of the Diocese of Allentown.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, out of the 1.1 billion Catholics in the world, more than 40 percent reside in Latin America.

Brazil now has more Catholics than Italy, France, and Spain combined, and the number of Catholics in Africa is also growing.

Observers of the church say the front runners include Odilo Pedro Scherer from Brazil, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga from Honduras, Leonardo Sandri from Argentina and Peter Turkson from Ghana.

"I think for the leader of the church to be from those countries would be very enriching for this giant growing population of Catholics," said Kerr.

Even though the Vatican is known for its tradition, other changes may also be on the horizon.

"They say this will probably be the first pope though who will have a computer on his desk," Kerr said.

Kerr adds the next pope will most likely be younger than his predecessor, who was elected at the age of 78.

Conclave schedule