Known in Italian as il predestinato, which marks him out as destined for greatness, Milan’s Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi might also be known abroad as the smiling one. As the favourite candidate to win the Catholic Church’s top job we could well be seeing more of his winning grin. He has been a cardinal since 1998, when John Paul II appointed him to head up the diocese of Milan, the largest in Europe. Though bound by fate to rise high, at the same time Tettamanzi is known as a well-grounded man, who does not lack the common touch.
As a theologian with a political conscience, Tettamanzi shares a great deal with John Paul II. He also has a similar conservative outlook on what could be called family issues: abortion, contraception and homosexuality. At the same time, Tettamanzi is a lively critic of globalisation and materialism. In 2001, when anti-globalisation demonstrators took to the streets of Genoa during the G8 summit there, he famously showed solidarity with the world’s poor. While many believe him a popular choice for pontiff, against him is his lack of international experience and his inability to speak foreign languages. After the well-travelled polyglot Jean Paul II, the church might not be ready for someone who could be a more parochial pope.