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Saturday, March 12, 2005


THE NEXT POPE: IT COULD BE CARDINAL OSCAR ANDRES RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA OF TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS 



Honduras cardinal gets San Antonio welcome

J. Michael Parker
Express-News Religion Writer

He may be handicapped as a 4-to-1 candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II, but a cardinal visiting San Antonio on Tuesday said he's putting his fate in bigger hands.

"We'd better leave that to Divine Providence," Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga said when asked about speculation surrounding him and the papacy.

The online betting service paddypower.com ranks the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as third most likely to become pope. But in a June interview with the Express-News, Rodriguez chuckled as he pointed out that those who openly campaign for the papacy seldom are elected: "You know the old saying in Rome about conclaves: 'Those who go into a conclave as popes usually come out as cardinals,'" he said.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez, 62, returned to San Antonio, which has had a sister relationship with his archdiocese since 1998. He ate breakfast with Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Flores at Las Cazuelas restaurant Tuesday, and then visited Archbishop José Gomez and Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Zurek at the Catholic Chancery office.

That was followed by a 40-minute helicopter tour over the city in a San Antonio Police Department helicopter — "I came to San Antonio from heaven," he joked — and ate lunch with about 60 invited guests at the St. Paul Community Center.

In the afternoon, he went to Crystal City, where he has been invited to preach at Sacred Heart Parish. Ordained in 1970, Rodriguez became auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa in 1978, archbishop in 1993 and a cardinal in 2001. He is considered an energetic, fearless leader who is familiar with problems facing the Third World.

He has indicated a Third World cardinal's election may not be far-fetched. "Who knows? Pope John Paul II overcame the conflict between East and West. Maybe someone from the South could overcome the conflict between the North and South. All of us must pray and discern the will of God," Rodriguez said.

He said the next pope will face a variety of new challenges. "We never expected after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War to have a fourth world war — a war against international terrorism," he said. "Unless there's a solution in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, it'll be difficult to end the war against terrorism."

Peace must be not just the absence of war, he said, but a social peace that addresses increasing poverty. "The gap between those who have everything they want and the majority who have less than $1 a day is growing bigger," he said.

Father Einer Ochoa, pastor of St. Agnes Parish, said that attitude is part of the reason Rodriguez would make a good pope. "He speaks very clearly the truths of the Catholic faith, and he isn't afraid to defend the rights of the people. He has a great charisma with them. And Latin America comprises a great proportion of the world's Catholics," Ochoa said.

But Tony Buentello, who attended the luncheon, said nobody knows whether Rodriguez has a chance, and even after a conclave, nothing is for sure. "In 1978, they elected a pope, and he died 33 days later," he said.

MY SAN ANTONIO.COM: Honduras cardinal gets S.A. welcome

Update: Check out a great blog that focuses on Honduras and Latin American issues, HispaniCon

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