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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 April 2005, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Profile: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi

By Peter Gould
BBC News, Rome, Italy

If Italy wants the papacy back, Dionigi Tettamanzi may be their best bet.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
Tettamanzi is usually classed as a "moderate conservative".

His job as Archbishop of Milan gives him the highest profile of any of the Italian cardinals.

He controls an archdiocese of 5 million people and 1,000 parishes, giving him the necessary pastoral credentials.

Cardinal Tettamanzi is also highly regarded by the Curia, the Vatican's civil service, which could win him votes in the conclave.

He has been frequently tipped to become pope since taking over in Milan in July 2002.

Now aged 71, he is about the right age if the conclave does not want the next pope to be in the job for 26 years.


Cardinal Tettamanzi is usually described as a "moderate conservative", which will also enhance his electoral prospects.

It means he could mediate between hard-line traditionalists and those in the Church seeking reform.

That could be significant, as conclaves often end up looking for a compromise candidate whose views are broadly acceptable to the opposing camps.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, pictured when he was Archbishop
Tettamanzi caused a stir at a G8 Summit, while Archbishop of Genoa.

As a theologian, the cardinal has written extensively on moral issues, including human sexuality, marriage and family life.

He shares many of the traditional views of John Paul II, having supported the papal line on issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

He has also taken a tough line against "homosexual culture".

He is credited with helping the pope to write a number of encyclicals, including one in 1995 which introduced the phrase "culture of death".

Cardinal Tettamanzi is believed to be close to the secretive conservative organisation, Opus Dei. In 1998, he published an article praising its founder, Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer.

These are all things that will reassure conservative-minded voters in the conclave.

Lacking charisma?

But he prelate could also appeal to those who want to see the Church taking a bigger stand on issues of social justice.

He found himself in the spotlight in 2001 during the riots that accompanied the G8 summit in Genoa (he was the city's archbishop at the time).

He said Christians should reject violence, but questioned the impact of globalisation, and urged wealthy nations not to forget the world's poor.

His comments raised some eyebrows, but did not prevent his promotion to Milan the following year.

These are views that will certainly go down well with cardinals from the developing world.

Cardinal Tettamanzi manages to combine traditional views on doctrine with a concern for social justice. It means he could be seen as a way for the Church to continue the policies of John Paul II.

'Wee fat guy'

But some believe he lacks charisma, and suggest he has something of an image problem.

He is short, with a roly-poly appearance that led the late Cardinal Winning of Glasgow to describe him as "that wee fat guy".

But his physical resemblance to Pope John XXIII - one of the best-loved popes in history - may add to his public appeal.

If he has a weakness, it may be the fact that he has not travelled much outside Italy, and is not much of a linguist.

John Paul II demonstrated an ability to communicate with the world, and his successor will be expected to do the same.

Yet the other qualities of Cardinal Tettamanzi may be enough to convince the cardinals that he is the man to take the Church forward.

Milan is a city that has provided the Church with a number of popes, and he could continue that tradition.

A profile of Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi

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