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Speculation grows ahead of conclave

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VATICAN CITY -- Milan's Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi may be the magnet for moderate votes if critics of conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger can unite in balloting for a new pope next week, Vatican watchers say.

The first voting round in the secret conclave, due to start next Monday afternoon, looks like a symbolic stand-off between Ratzinger and Tettamanzi's predecessor as Milan archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Italian newspapers say.

With neither seen winning the required two-thirds majority, the 115 "princes of the church" in the conclave would then have to decide whether to look for new candidates.

CNN's Chris Burns said: "There's building anticipation here -- in the square, in the streets, in the restaurants -- as the cardinals continue to debate among themselves.

"The main conclave formally begins on Monday but the speculation is rampant in the newspapers."

Ratzinger, 77, was Pope John Paul's doctrinal watchdog for 23 years.

"Cardinal Ratzinger -- number two at the Vatican, and seen as an arch conservative -- is seen as having the inside track. He is said to have somewhere around 50 votes out of 150," Burns said.

"Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, is going to need to have the magic number of 77 to get the two-thirds that is required to be elected as the new pope.

"But he has many people against him -- not least a group called the 'anybody but Ratzinger crowd.' But that crowd doesn't have enough of a quorum to pitch their own main candidate.

"Cardinal Tettamanzi of Milan is seen as a possible number two alternative. He is seen as someone who everyone can agree on -- a compromise -- but it is not clear if he could win on a first round either.

"Number three mentioned by a leading newspaper in Italy is Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras. Some see him as almost a rock-and-roll pope.

"He has campaigned with Bono to try to forgive some Third World debt. He plays the saxophone and speaks good English. But again, he is not seen as someone who could win on the first round."

According to some Italian newspapers, some cardinals appear to be ignoring a vow of secrecy, leaking details of their discussions.

Most cardinals -- even those from far-away countries -- can speak Italian, so the reporting becomes part of the pre-conclave politicking, according to Reuters.

Italian press reports carried details clearly based on leaks from cardinals that could not be confirmed:

  • La Repubblica reported most German and U.S. cardinals opposed Ratzinger as a Vatican centralizer.
  • Corriere della Sera said Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan, would garner about as many votes as Ratzinger in the first round, after which both would have to step aside for more consensual candidates.
  • The main moderates mentioned for voting after a ritual first round are Tettamanzi, an unnamed Latin American cardinal, and Lisbon Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo.
  • If Ratzinger pulled out, possible standard-bearers for the conservatives include Rome's Camillo Ruini, Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna or Angelo Scola from Venice, the newspapers wrote.

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