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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April 2005, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Profile: Cardinal Godfried Danneels
By Tim Franks
BBC Europe correspondent

One of the names mentioned as a possible candidate to be elected as the next pope is the Belgian Cardinal, Godfried Danneels.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels
The Belgian cardinal is seen as an intellectual and communicator

Godfried Danneels is widely respected but his beliefs and his country of origin may count against him, as might his age - he is 71 years old.

After the prolonged decline of John Paul II, there may be a feeling that the papacy needs to return to someone with great stores of energy.

Indeed, Cardinal Danneels himself speculated a few years ago that John Paul II might want to resign - that perhaps in these days of medical advances, it would be better if pontiffs did not necessarily stay in office until they die.

Condom controversy

That has not been his only brush with controversy.

The cardinal has called for greater decentralisation of the Catholic church, for a bigger role for women in the governance of the church - though not the priesthood - and perhaps most strikingly, for an end to the complete ban on condom use.

We don't think so much about who it is, but what he is. We have to choose the best, and the colour has no importance
Cardinal Godfried Danneels
For people with HIV, the cardinal says that abstinence from sex is the best course of action.

However, if they do have sex, they should use a condom, otherwise they risk breaking the sixth commandment - not to kill.

Rick Torfs, professor of theology at the Maria Theresa Theological College in the Belgian city of Leuven says that Cardinal Danneels is a brilliant, multilingual man.

"His weakness, however, is that he comes is that he comes from Belgium, a country perceived as decadent with rather drastic, radical views on euthanasia, abortion, [and] homosexual marriage," he says.

"That's not so good seen from the eyes of Rome."

Unlikely candidate

The view is echoed in the Belgian town of Hasselt by the local priest, Alexander Cornelsis.

He says anyone who wants to take on the pressures of the pontificate must be "mad", but he believes the Belgian cardinal could have an influence.

"I think he can be a pope-maker," he says.

"As a cardinal in his own country he really does a good job. He tries to unify the Christians. But I think sometimes he's a bit too moderate."

Cardinal Danneels has himself said that whoever the next pope is, he has to address huge issues, such as the secularisation of Europe and the poverty of great swathes of the world.

"We don't think so much about who it is, but what he is. We have to choose the best, and the colour has no importance," he said.

Godfried Danneels shares some of John Paul II's qualities. He is seen as an intellectual and an enthusiastic communicator.

But in what is regarded as a conservative college of cardinals, his recent stances make him an unlikely candidate for pope.

Profile of Belgian cardinal Godfried Daneels

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