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Pack For A Week, Study The Favorites: A Brazilian Cardinal's Last Thoughts Before Conclave

Press blackout be damned, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis spoke with Folha de S. Paolo about papal candidates, including fellow Brazilian Scherer. Assis expects a short conclave, but is packed for a long one.

Brazilian Cardinals Odilo Scherer (left) and Raymundo Damasceno Assis (right)
Brazilian Cardinals Odilo Scherer (left) and Raymundo Damasceno Assis (right)
Fabiano Maisonnave

VATICAN CITY- Even after last week’s media blackout imposed by the Vatican, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis chose to give an interview to Folha de S.Paolo before entering Tuesday's conclave.

Damasceno Assis confirmed that the frontrunner papabili as touted in the press -- including his compatriot, Cardinal Odilo Scherer -- do indeed enjoy strong support among the other cardinals. He predicted that the conclave will be over rather quickly, as the preparation meetings have gone very smoothly.

Relaxed and in a good mood during a sit-down on Sunday, Cardinal Damasceno Assis, 76, the archbishop of Aparecida, was the only one of the five Brazilian cardinals to give an extensive interview since the meetings began last week. He says that he is comfortable not being among those likely to become pope: “I think Cardinal Scherer might be under a lot of pressure.”

“It’s hard to say who will really get all of the votes necessary, but of those mentioned in the press, we have to admit that there is a possibility that one of these cardinals could be chosen,” he added.

The President of the Brazilian Bishops Conference, Damasceno Assis reiterated that the choice has not yet been made -- the game is still wide open: “There may be surprises. If the future pope had already been chosen, we would not need to hold a conclave.”

He said that he will reside in room 418 in the Casa Santa Marta, the residence inside the Vatican where all 115 cardinals will stay from Tuesday morning onwards. He predicted that the election of the new pope would be fast, as meetings have already clearly established the new pope’s necessary characteristics.

Even so, the cardinal brought seven days worth of clothes with him -- just in case.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Turkey-Israel Relations? It's Complicated — But The Gaza War Is Different

Turkish President Erdogan has now called on the International Criminal Court to go after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for war crimes, as the clash between the two regional powers has reached a new low.

Photo of ​Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walking

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Elias Kassem

Since the arrival two decades ago of now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s relationship with Israel has been a mix of deep ideological conflict and cover-your-eyes realpolitik.

On the one hand, Erdogan has positioned himself as a kind of global spokesman for the Palestinian cause. His Justice and Development Party has long publicly and financially supported Hamas, which shares similar roots in the 20th-century Muslim Brotherhood movement.

And yet, since 2001 when Erdogan first came to power, trade between Turkey and Israel has multiplied from $1.41 to $8.9 billion in 2022. Moreover, both countries see major potential in transporting newly discovered Israeli natural gas to Europe, via Turkey.

The logic of shared interests clashes with the passions and posturing of high-stakes geopolitics. Diplomatic relations have been cut off, then restored, and since October 7, the countries’ respective ambassadors have been recalled, with accusations flying between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, over the past 48 hours, Turkish-Israeli relations may have hit an all-time low.

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