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Our Turn Now - Hopes High Across Latin America For Its First-Ever Pope

EL DIARIO, SEXENIO (Mexico),LA PRENSA (Honduras), LA VOZ( Argentina), LAVANGUARDIA (Spain)


Latin America's time has come. The papacy is ours for the taking. Strong candidates walking into the conclave, and more than 40% of the world's Catholics come from this region.

This is exactly what Latin America's faithful, and newspapers, were saying back in 2005, just before the conclave that elected Joseph Ratzinger - a German. Will history repeat itself, or be made?

Cardinals in conclave by country. Those in peach have 1 attending. Map by Starus

This time the region has one clear frontrunner Odilo Pedro Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At 63, he leads the largest diocese, in the country with the most Catholics in the world. He embodies two of the many qualities that will be decisive at the time of the election: Vatican and pastoral experience.

Among all Latin American candidates, Scherer has one very important quality: he is European, in character, formation and even ascendance as reported by Mexican magazine Sexenio.

Telemundo conducted a poll on its show “Al Rojo Vivo” asking preferences for who should succeed Benedict XVI. Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, with more than 50,000 votes, tops the list. The Honduran daily La Prensa reports that the popular 70-year-old is respected throughout the region, but probably too progressive to be elected by his cardinal peers. He was followed far behind by someone outside of Latin America: Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana with fewer than 6000 votes.

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A church in Buenos Aires (blmurch)

Barecelona-based La Vanguardia reports on a more likely choice: Mexican Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara. Mexico is the second-most Catholics in the world (92.9 million, 83.9% of the population). Robles, 64, who will be participating for the first time in a conclave, Robles was quoted as saying “there is seemingly no possibility for a Mexican to be chosen as Pope." But when asked directly about himself being chosen, he said he would assume “whatever the will of God holds for the future of service to the Church.”

From Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio archbishop of Buenos Aires has been mentioned as a candidate this time, as he was in 2005. The son of Italian immigrants, Bergoglio was reported to have the second most votes during the secret conclave that elected Benedicto XVI. It was Bergoglio himself who asked to not be elected, according to La Voz. At 76, he may be a bit old this time.

Horacio Simián Yofre, a priest from Santa Fe, Argentina was asked if the thought the next Pope could be Latin American. “I think we are still far away. At this time I don’t know if there is anybody prepared enough in Latin America to become Pope. Some years ago, Bergoglio was well prepared,” Simián told It19digital reported.

Altogether, there are 19 Cardinals from Latin America in the Conclave, far behind the 60 in Europe (with 28 in Italy alone). Of the estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, some 483 million live in Latin America, according to Vatican figures. Europe comes in second with 23.7% followed by Africa with 15.2%, Asia with 11.7%, North America with 7.3% and Oceania with 0.8%. Of the ten countries with the most Catholics, four are in Latin America, topped by Brazil with 123 million, more than any other country in the world.

Rector of La Salle University in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, Miguel Ángel Valdés said the time is ripe, El Diario reports. “We know the highest number of Catholics are concentrated in this region, it is desirable for the new Pope to be Latin American, it is our time”, said Valdés.

Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops Conference, added his voice to those in favor of a Latin American, Sexenio reports. “This is a time for Cardinals to decide if it is or not time to send a clear signal that the Church is international. Whether the new Pope will be from Latin America will be a very important issue," said Zollitsch. "There are a series of very distinguished Cardinals from Latin America. They are open and disciplined at the same time. They have deep faith, and would be in condition to represent the Church with vigor and honor.”

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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