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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 Roman Catholic man, in practice always a cardinal, who is thought a likely or possible candidate to be elected pope. In Italy the term has become very common and people use it for other analogous situations, too.
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 and Francis. 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.
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.
Papabili elected pope
- Francesco Saverio Castiglioni (elected as Pius VIII in 1829)[b]
- Gioachino Pecci (elected as Leo XIII in 1878)[c]
- Giacomo della Chiesa (elected as Benedict XV in 1914)
- Eugenio Pacelli (elected as Pius XII in 1939)[d]
- Giovanni Battista Montini (elected as Paul VI in 1963)[e]
- Joseph Ratzinger (elected as Benedict XVI in 2005)[f]
- Jorge Mario Bergoglio (elected as Francis in 2013)[g]
Papabili not elected
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.)
- Giuseppe Siri was widely expected to be elected pope in the 1958 and 1963 conclaves and continued to be a prime contender in both 1978 conclaves. On the first of these occasions, Angelo Roncalli, an utterly unexpected choice, was elected and became Pope John XXIII.
- Giovanni Benelli was widely expected to be elected pope in both the August and October 1978 conclaves. In fact he was defeated in both (narrowly the second time). In August, a candidate few saw as papabile, Albino Luciani, was elected and became Pope John Paul I–with the support of Benelli himself. In October, another such candidate, Karol Wojtyła, was elected as John Paul II.
- Rafael Merry del Val was a widely considered candidate during the conclaves of 1914 and 1922 which eventually elected Benedict XV and Pius XI respectively, although he never garnered enough votes to be in serious contention.
- Bartolomeo Pacca – experienced diplomat under Pius VII, he was a candidate in 1823 and favored to win in 1829 but was vetoed by France. Cardinal Castiglioni was elected as Pius VIII.
- Emmanuele de Gregorio - expected to succeed Leo XII and Pius VIII, but never did.
- Mariano Rampolla – Leo XIII's Secretary of State. He was headed for victory in the 1903 conclave only to be vetoed by Kraków Cardinal Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko on behalf of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I. With Rampolla blocked, Giuseppe Sarto was elected and became Pius X. One of Pius X's first acts was to abolish the rights of states to veto.[h]
- Carlo Maria Martini – Jesuit, biblical exegete, Archbishop of Milan from 1980 to 2002. Considered to be the most likely successor to John Paul II for much of the 1980s and 1990s but was already suffering from Parkinson's disease by the time the 2005 papal conclave was convened.
- Francis Arinze – speculated by some media reports as a highly favoured successor to John Paul II but did not gain a substantial number of votes in the 2005 papal conclave.
Papabili at the 2013 conclave
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.
- Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa
- Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila
- Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
- Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
- Seán Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston
- Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
- Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
- Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
- Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo
- Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
- Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan
- Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Papabili in future conclave
Edward Pentin, a prominent Vaticanologist as the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register, released a book in 2020 entitled The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, listing 19 Cardinals considered papabili for a future conclave after Pope Francis. Several of the Cardinals are due to reach the age of 80 in the next couple of years, at which point they will not be part of a future conclave. The nineteen listed, and their current ages, are;
- Angelo Bagnasco (age 78)
- Raymond Leo Burke (age 72)
- Dominik Duka (age 78)
- Willem Eijk (age 67)
- Péter Erdő (age 68)
- Gerhard Ludwig Müller (age 73)
- Sean Patrick O'Malley (age 76)
- Marc Ouellet (age 77)
- Pietro Parolin (age 66)
- Mauro Piacenza (age 76)
- Malcolm Ranjith (age 73)
- Gianfranco Ravasi (age 78)
- Robert Sarah (age 76)
- Christoph Schönborn (age 76)
- Angelo Scola (age 79)
- Luis Antonio Tagle (age 63)
- Peter Turkson (age 72)
- Matteo Zuppi (age 65)
Non-papabili elected pope
- Barnaba Chiaramonti (elected as Pius VII in 1800)[i]
- Annibale della Genga (elected as Leo XII in 1823)[j]
- Bartolomeo Alberto Mauro Cappellari (elected as Gregory XVI in 1831)[k]
- Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (elected as Pius X in 1903)[l]
- Achille Ratti (elected as Pius XI in 1922)[m]
- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (elected as John XXIII in 1958)[n]
- Albino Luciani (elected as John Paul I in 1978)[o]
- Karol Wojtyła (elected as John Paul II in 1978)[p]
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.
- Conclave capitulation
- Elective monarchy
- Holy See
- Index of Vatican City-related articles
- List of papal elections
- Papal appointment
- Papal primacy
- Papal conclave (2005; 2013)
- Papal coronation
- Terna, a list of the final three candidates to possibly be named bishop of a diocese, or another post that could only be filled by a bishop, in the appointment of Catholic bishops
- Short list, an analogous secular concept
- Papa + suffix -abile. Compare combinabile, "combinable", or "able to be combined".
- Castiglioni was papabile at both the 1823 conclave and at the 1829 conclave. Pope Pius VII during his lifetime called Cardinal Castiglioni "Pope Pius VIII" and at the 1823 conclave, the person ultimately elected as Pope Leo XII stated that Cardinal Castiglioni would someday be Pope Pius VIII. Castiglioni came close to being elected at the 1823 conclave but lost support due to being identified as being close to Cardinal Ercole Consalvi, a moderate and Secretary of State of the late Pope Pius VII. Consalvi later died during Leo XII's pontificate and Castiglioni, a papabile once more when Leo XII himself died, was subsequently elected Pope at the 1829 conclave. His election was facilitated in that of the other papabili, Bartolomeo Pacca was opposed by France while the other papabile Emmanuele de Gregorio failed to get the support of the majority of the other cardinals. Upon his election, Castiglioni took the name Pius VIII, given that his two immediate predecessors had previously called him by that name.
- The majority of the cardinals who headed to Rome for the 1878 conclave had already decided to support Pecci who was Camerlengo. Also, Pecci was perceived to be the opposite of the recently deceased Pius IX.
- Pope Pius XI prior to his death strongly hinted that he favored Cardinal Pacelli as his successor. On 15 December 1937, during his last consistory, Pius XI strongly hinted to the cardinals that he expected Pacelli to be his successor, saying "He is in your midst." He had previously been quoted as saying: "When today the Pope dies, you'll get another one tomorrow, because the Church continues. It would be a much bigger tragedy, if Cardinal Pacelli dies, because there is only one. I pray every day, God may send another one into one of our seminaries, but as of today, there is only one in this world."
- Montini had been discussed as a papabile candidate in the 1958 conclave despite not having been a cardinal at the time; Cardinal Giuseppe Siri during the discussion about Montini was furious that a non-cardinal would even be considered. It was also rumored some of the French cardinals voted in favor of Montini during that conclave. John XXIII had sent vague signals during his reign that he believed his friend Montini (whom he made a cardinal) would be his successor.
- On 2 January 2005, Time magazine quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a front runner to succeed John Paul II should he die or become too ill to continue as pope. On the death of John Paul II, the Financial Times gave the odds of Ratzinger becoming pope as 7–1, the lead position, but close to his rivals on the liberal wing of the church. In April 2005, before his election as pope, he was identified as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time. At the conclave, "it was, if not Ratzinger, who? And as they came to know him, the question became, why not Ratzinger?" On 19 April 2005, he was elected on the second day after four ballots.
- Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a papabile at the 2005 conclave and was also considered a contender at the 2013 conclave due to his being the reported "second-place finisher" at the 2005 conclave and according to John L. Allen Jr., some of the participants in the 2005 conclave who were also participating in the 2013 conclave were "getting another bite at the apple". Despite this, his election still came as a surprise because some of the commentators who considered him papabile made the observation that there were "compelling reasons to believe that Bergoglio's window of opportunity to be pope has already closed" and that "his 'moment' seems to be over".
- Papal historian Valérie Pirie disagreed with the conclusion that Rampolla would have won but for the veto of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor. Pirie claims that Rampolla would never have prevailed in the conclave and all that the veto accomplished was to make him appear a sympathetic figure as a victim of Austrian hostility.
- Chiaramonti was not considered papabile but emerged as an alternative candidate following months of deadlock. Chiaramonti was well-regarded among many of the cardinals, however, tried to dissuade them from electing him since he was all too happy with being a bishop. Cardinal Jean-Sifrein Maury first proposed Chiaramonti as a compromise candidate to break the stalemate.
- Della Genga was not considered papabile due to his physical infirmities and the cardinal himself at the conclave tried to discourage the other electors from voting for him. However he was elected because the conclave received information about secret societies who were perceived to have grown in strength during the sede vacante and some cardinals wanted a quick conclusion to the conclave and his physical condition made some cardinals think that his pontificate would not last long.
- Cappellari's election was unexpected and had been influenced by the fact that the most papabile candidate, Giacomo Giustiniani, had been vetoed, therefore resulting in a deadlock.
- Sarto emerged as an alternative candidate after the veto of Mariano Rampolla.
- Ratti was elected as a compromise candidate between the conservative faction headed by Rafael Merry del Val and the moderate faction headed by Pietro Gasparri. Also, Gasparri threw his support behind Ratti and urged his supporters to vote for Ratti.
- Some commentators like William Doino dispute the contention that Roncalli was a non-papabile and argue that "[b]y the time of Pius XII’s death, in 1958, Cardinal Roncalli 'contrary to the idea he came out of nowhere to become pope' was actually one of those favored to be elected. He was well known, well liked and trusted."
- Although Luciani wasn't considered papabile, one of the papabile cardinals, Giovanni Benelli, used his influence to persuade the others to elect Luciani at the conclave.
- Wojtyła was elected as a compromise candidate due to the failure of the leading papabili Giuseppe Siri and Giovanni Benelli to obtain the requisite majority and the only other viable Italian compromise candidate Giovanni Colombo announced to the cardinal-electors at the conclave that he would decline the papacy if elected.
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