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The next Pope

Popular in the developing world, John Paul II is a liability for Catholicism in the west. Will the new Pope be liberal or conservative, Italian or, even, black?

By Tobias Jones   December 2002

It is supposed to happen once every decade or two. It happened, amazingly, twice in 1978, but never since then. It is so rare that it has given rise to an Italian phrase-equivalent to “once in a blue moon”-“every death of a Pope.”

The rare event is, though, undeniably near at hand. In recent months the Italian press has been anxiously reporting on the health of John Paul II, and quietly pondering who his successor might be. Most nights on Italian television we are treated to the sad spectacle of the pontiff, shaking with Parkinson’s, leaning heavily on his staff.…

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