As a New Pope is Chosen, Latin America Hopes for More Sway
Tracy Wilkinson - The Los Angeles Times
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February 24, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his last Sunday prayers before stepping down. Tens of thousands cheered in St. Peter's Square. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY — They represent the region with more Roman Catholics than any other. And their to-do list for the next pope is a long one.

Next month, 19 cardinals from Latin America will be among the 117 from around the world expected to be eligible to participate in the secret meetings to choose a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI.

And though the chances for a Latin American pope being elected are a long shot, regional leaders are hoping to have more influence than before both in the selection process and in addressing many of the major problems facing the church in general and Latin America specifically.

Among them: the growing secularism and corruption of faith that Benedict so frequently complained of and the church's sex abuse scandals, involving clerics in Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

Issues of particular concern for Latin America include the evangelical religious faith that has been rapidly siphoning off church members and the lack of fervor for the current pope.

"Latin Americans have for a very long time felt they should get more say in choices and policy decisions; they feel that because of their size, they should have more influence at the Vatican," said Margaret E. Crahan, an expert on the church at Columbia University's Institute of Latin American Studies. "But the Europeans still dominate."

Many Latin American Catholics never warmed completely to Benedict, in part because of his terse style and in some cases because of his conservative ideology. He remained a distant, rigid figure to many, despite two high-profile visits to the region, and they speak now of hope for a new pope who would be more personable and accessible.

The next pope "will have to take the church from this image of paralysis … and find a clear, agile way to preach the Gospel," said Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, the world's largest.

Read the whole story at The Los Angeles Times

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