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Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 28, 2005

Written by C.N.

Prognosticating About the Pontiff

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Pope John Paul II has been through several illnesses recently. He is 84 years old, stricken with Parkinson’s Disease, and it is widely believed that he may be nearing the end of his life soon. In that context, speculation about who may succeed him as the next Pope is already well underway.

One of the better analyses is by former Vatican diplomat and professor at James Madison University, John-Peter Pham, who apparently is Vietnamese. Professor Pham recently wrote a book entitled Heirs Of The Fisherman: Behind The Scenes Of Papal Death And Succession. As he explains in this article at MSNBC/Newsweek, Pope John Paul II changed the rules slightly regarding how the next Pope should be elected:

Traditionally, a two-thirds majority is required to elect the pope. But, now, he’s changed the rules so that, essentially, after a little over a week’s time staying at this hotel in relative comfort, if they haven’t elected someone, they can change the rules to elect by simple majority after they have gone through the whole procedure. . . [T]his way, a determined majority can elect someone who is not a consensus figure.

Professor Pham also notes that even though Pope John Paul II has appointed 116 of the 119 cardinals who will elect the next Pope, there’s no guarantee that his successor will be a carbon copy of himself:

Both popes and cardinals have been surprised by what comes out of a conclave. Because of the nature of the constitution of the church that invests sole and absolute power in one man, once that man is seated in that chair, all bets are off. You can’t, from the grave, control your successor. Conventional wisdom only takes you so far.

Professor Pham also goes on to describe five cardinals who are early favorites who are likely to be considered for the next Pope — three Italians, one Nigerian, and one Austrian. I could not locate any biogrpahical information about Professor Pham, but don’t be surprised to hear about him or see him on television in the upcoming months, as the talk about the Pope’s successor intensifies. As always, it’s nice to see another Asian American, in this case another Vietnamese American, earning respect.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Prognosticating About the Pontiff" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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