By the numbers, next Pope won’t be Italian
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2013 - 12:00am

“Separated at birth?” That would have been a fine headline for the news photo of Mayor Edwin Elorde cradling the head of lifeless Lolong, the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity. For many it looked like a poll campaign stunt by the chief executive of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. “He was like a son to me,” Elorde sobbed about the more than five decades old marsh reptile that took only 17 months in a pen to die.

Would-be Crocodile Dundees had captured Lolong in the Agusan Marsh in September 2011. The hunt followed the deaths of a toddler and a carabao in croc attacks. No one is sure if Lolong was the culprit. Even if he was, he shouldn’t have been caught and encaged as a P20,000-a-day tourism moneymaker. The marsh is a nature preserve, where taking wildlife is prohibited, especially if for profit. The captors could be jailed, along with Lolong’s grandstanding “papa” at the municipio, and the environment officials who abetted them. They broke the 2001 Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (R.A. 9147).

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Benedict XVI’s adverting in his last Ash Wednesday homily to “disunity, divisions” in the Catholic Church confirmed the suspicion of many. That is, he is resigning at month’s end not only because physically but also spiritually drained.

The homily was about wholeheartedly returning to God (full text: www.zenit.org/en/articles/benedict-xvi-s-ash-wednesday-homily—2). The Holy Father reflected on how the face of the Church is sometimes disfigured. “I am thinking in particular about sins against the unity of the Church, the divisions in the ecclesiastical body,” he said. “Many are ready to ‘rend their garments’ before scandals and injustices — of course, made by others — but few seem willing to act on their own ‘heart’.”

Church hierarchs caution conspiracy theorists against over-reading Benedict’s words. Still, homilies are expected to be straightforward. Too, the suddenness of Benedict’s resignation makes people conjecture. And scandals — not of his making — did rock his eight-year Petrine ministry.

As soon as he was raised to the Papacy, critics raked up Benedict’s German roots to include a stint with the Hitler Youth at age 14. Oddly downplayed, however, was his deserting the anti-aircraft unit and becoming a POW in 1945. Too, he inherited the flood of complaints of child sex abuses by priests in Europe and North America. Exasperated at one point, he cried: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!” Then there was “VatiLeaks.” A Vatican court convicted Benedict’s butler last year for filching confidential papers that wound up in a book about behind-the-scenes Vatican intrigue. Absurd were the Benetton “unhate” posters showing Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, and Egypt’s Ahmed el Tayyeb and Benedict kissing on the lips; and the rumor that he came to his Papal anointing in brand-new Prada sandals.

Benedict also committed faux pas. Like, antagonizing Jews in one prayer and in reversing the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. Antagonizing Muslims, too, in calling Mohammad’s teachings “evil and inhuman.” He apologized profusely for both gaffes.

All this can sap any Pontiff of a global church with 1.2 billion members. Our prayers go for the Holy Father.

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The next Pope, like the last two, is likely to not be Italian. Going by number trends, he could even come from Latin America, Africa, or Asia.

The past decade has seen a dwindling of Italian cardinals. They used to be the Holy See’s controlling majority. There are now only 49 of them, or 23 percent of the 209 total.

Only cardinals below 80 years old can vote and be voted upon in the Conclave, set before Easter. That makes only 29 Italians attending, 24 percent of the 119 total.

There are 115 European cardinals, 63 of whom can vote. Plus, 22 United States and Canadian cardinals, with 14 voting.

In contrast are 30 Latin American, 18 African, and 24 Asian. Joining the Conclave are 22, 11, and 12, respectively.

In the past decades John Paul II and Benedict XVI elevated more Latin American, African, and Asian cardinals than European and North American. Many have reached retirement at 80. Still, the shift mirrored a similar drift of Church membership to the southern hemisphere.

As of 2011 there were 351 million Catholics in Latin America, 135.2 million in Africa, and 131.6 million in Asia-Oceania (including Australia). The total 617.8 million made up 56 percent of nearly 1.1 billion faithful then.

Europe remained with 283.9 million Catholics, and North America 173.2 million. The former comprised no more than 26 percent, the latter (United States and Canada) 15.5 percent. The engulfing child sex shames occurred in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United States. The Church in Europe has been enfeebled. Moreover, bishops are said to be averse to sanctifying a Pope from a superpower country.

Filipino Luis Antonio Tagle is said to be a long shot, because very young at age 55, and very new at four months as cardinal. But because he’s Asian from the southern half of the world, who knows?

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com

A VATICAN AGUSAN MARSH BENEDICT CHURCH HOLY FATHER LATIN AMERICA LATIN AMERICAN LOLONG
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