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Faithful Roman Catholics the world over, bookmakers, cabals of nervous bankers and sweaty-palmed doomsday-mongers are all in a tizzy about who will be the next Pontiff.
Pope Benedict leaves behind him a church at the crossroads, riven with sex and financial scandals, an ageing priesthood and falling church congregations in its European and North American heartlands. The next holder of the job will have his hands full. But who will it be?
Names currently being bandied about include the Cardinal of Milan Angelo Scola, or Cardinal Maradiaga from Honduras.
Euronews went to Rome to speak to Vatican expert Marco Politi.
“Of course there are many currents (within the Conclave). There is a conservative group. It is the one who chose Ratzinger eight years ago. This ultra-conservative group is not going to impose anyone. This Conclave will choose a Pope from the centre. A Pope able to mediate. But we still don’t have a name and we don’t know how strong liberals within this Conclave are and what candidates think.” Politi said.
He added: “Throughout these years we suffered from conformism. Nobody said anything different from Ratzinger. But there are real problems such as a crisis of priestly recruitment, the possibility of having married priests, the role of women within the church and the temporal power of the Pope. All these things need reforms and no one has spoken about these reforms yet.”