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Papabile (//, also UK: /-/, Italian: [paˈpaːbile]; pl. papabili; lit. '"pop(e)able"' or "able to be pope"[a]) is an unofficial Italian term first coined by Vaticanologists and now used internationally in many languages to describe a Catholic man, in practice always a cardinal, who is thought a likely or possible candidate to be elected pope. In some cases the cardinals will choose a papabile candidate. Among the papabili cardinals who have been elected pope are Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII), Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI), and Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). However, at times the College of Cardinals elects a man who was not considered papabile by most Vatican watchers. In recent years those who were elected pope though not considered papabile include John XXIII, John Paul I, John Paul II. There is a saying among Vaticanologists: "He who enters the conclave as pope, leaves it as a cardinal." This is a popular proverb in Italy as well, indicating one should never be too sure of oneself.
The list of papabili changes as cardinals age. For instance, Carlo Maria Martini was thought to be papabile until he retired from his see upon reaching 75 years of age.
The term papabile is at least as old as the 15th century, since it is found in the Catholicon Anglicum.
In Italian, the word papabile is also used in non-Church contexts referring to short list candidates, i.e. those who, among the available candidates, are most likely to get elected or appointed to a specific position.
Being seen as papabile, however, is no guarantee of election, and is sometimes seen as a handicap. (Although the following candidates were widely discussed as candidates publicly, the actual vote results described below are frequently based on rumours and sourced, if at all, from off-the-record reports of individual cardinals.)
The following cardinals, as noted in the cited references, were also considered papabili at the 2013 conclave, which elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took the name Francis.
Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register, released a book in August 2020 entitled The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, listing 19 Cardinals he considered papabili for a future conclave after Pope Francis. Two of the 19, Wilfrid Napier and Angelo Scola, turned 80 in 2021 and thus will not be part of a future conclave (but could still be elected pope). Several others are due to reach the age of 80 in the next couple of years. The nineteen listed, and their current ages, are;
|Italy||Angelo Bagnasco||(age 79)||Also papabile in 2013. If elected, would be the oldest pope since Clement XII in 1730|
|United States||Raymond Leo Burke||(age 74)|
|Czech Republic||Dominik Duka||(age 79)||If elected, would be the oldest pope since Clement XII in 1730|
|Netherlands||Willem Eijk||(age 69)|
|Hungary||Péter Erdő||(age 70)||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Malta||Mario Grech||(age 65)|
|Germany||Gerhard Ludwig Müller||(age 74)|
|South Africa||Wilfrid Napier||(age 81)||Will not be part of a future conclave.|
|United States||Sean Patrick O'Malley||(age 78)||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Canada||Marc Ouellet||(age 78)||||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Italy||Pietro Parolin||(age 67)|||
|Italy||Mauro Piacenza||(age 77)|
|Sri Lanka||Malcolm Ranjith||(age 74)|
|Italy||Gianfranco Ravasi||(age 79)||Also papabile in 2013. If elected, would be the oldest pope since Clement XII in 1730|
|Guinea||Robert Sarah||(age 77)|||
|Austria||Christoph Schönborn||(age 77)||||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Italy||Angelo Scola||(age 80)||Will not be part of a future conclave. Also papabile in 2013.|
|Philippines||Luis Antonio Tagle||(age 65)||||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Ghana||Peter Turkson||(age 73)||Also papabile in 2013.|
|Italy||Matteo Zuppi||(age 66)|||
Pope John Paul I predicted Cardinal Wojtyła – the future John Paul II – would succeed him, and Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot predicted in May 1978 that only Wojtyła could gain the support of two-thirds of the cardinal electors, but was not widely considered papabile because he was not Italian. As of 1978, no non-Italian had been elected Pope since the 1522 conclave that chose the short-lived Dutch Pope Adrian VI.