“The pope once again has broken with old models and isn’t afraid to announce to the world that he is too weak and tired to continue governing the Catholic Church,’’ said Ortega, who accompanied the pope during his Cuban visit.
Colombia’s Catholic Church had been awaiting the pope’s appearance Monday, because Benedict was scheduled to set a canonization date for this country’s first saint, Mother Laura Monotoa Upegui, who died in 1949. But minutes after setting the date, the pope stunned the world with news of his resignation.
The news also had particular resonance in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez’s battle with cancer has kept him sidelined for months.
“The pope has shown his human side by recognizing his lack of physical power,” the president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Council Diego Padrón told El Nacional newspaper. “What a beautiful example for the world.”
Benedict had been scheduled to visit Brazil for the church’s World Youth Day festival in Rio de Janeiro, July 23-28. But his older brother, Georg Ratzinger, told dpa, the German news agency, that the pope had been advised by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
With an estimated 125 million Catholics, Brazil is the largest Catholic country, and there are two Brazilian cardinals who have been mentioned as possible successors: Joao Bráz de Aviz, who heads the Vatican Department for religious congregations, and Odilo Pedro Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo.
Among other Latin Americans who have been mentioned as possible successors are:
• Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga — The archbishop of Tegucigalpa visited Miami last October for a dinner of the Cuban Association of the Order of Malta. During his speech, he said it was scandalous that around 60 percent of the world’s people live in poverty and said it was urgent to work for the common good and to combat poverty.
• Cardinal Leonardo Sandri — An Argentine born of Italian parents, he now heads the Vatican Department for Eastern Churches. He held the third highest Vatican post, chief of staff, from 2000 to 2007.
The leading African candidate is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. He heads the Vatican’s justice and peace bureau.
Candidates from Europe and North America also are considered possible successors when the conclave of cardinals meets to elect the next pope.
But Bishop Jose Daniel Falla Robles, the secretary general of the Colombian Episcopal Council, said the election of popes has generated “many surprises in the past,” because the process involves more than geopolitics and the desires of the cardinals.
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that this process is guided by God,” he said.