March 11, 2013

If numbers were used to choose the next pope, he might come from Latin America.

Four in 10 Catholics live in Latin America, more than any other region, and it is home to the countries with the two largest Catholic populations, Brazil and Mexico, respectively.

Yet, few Latin Americans are betting that one of the region’s 19 cardinals will replace Pope Benedict when the papal conclave convenes.

And few seem to mind.

Latin American Catholic leaders, scholars, and laypeople told Catholic News Service that, more important than seeing one of their cardinals become pope, is having a pope that understands the region.

Some expressed hope that the next pope would grant more autonomy to local churches and more widely recognize Latin America’s importance to the universal Church – for both its size and for its contributions to Church doctrine.

Their sentiments reflected a sense of detachment from the Vatican, perceived as being Eurocentric and often out of touch with social issues that continue to trouble the region.