Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga has denied throwing his red zucchetto (clerical skullcap) into the ring as a possible candidate to become the next pope. As we’ve already blogged here and here, the publication of a French book of interviews with the archbishop of Tegucigalpa last month has been interpreted by some Vatican watchers as subtle self-promotion — una autocandidatura, as they say in Rome. This was bolstered by unfounded speculation about Pope Benedict’s health, which seems quite good for a man of his age (81).
Now, in an interview with the Milan daily Il Giornale, Rodríguez Maradiaga has dismissed this speculation as a “mistaken interpretation” of his words. Most importantly, he said the interview in question took place in 2004, before the death of Pope John Paul II and simply expressed an obvious fact being discussed at the time. “Of course, the day will come for a pope from the South, as it came for one from the East,” he said. “At no time have I thought of myself as papabile (a possible pope). I have much to do in my beloved Honduras and I’ve never thought of putting my name forward.“
Kudos to Il Giornale‘s Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli for tracking this down. The book in question, a collection of the cardinal’s interviews with a French journalist in Rome, states the conversations were held in 2006 or 2007. Soon after the speculation began in the French press, Tornielli challenged the date of these “recycled quotes” on his blog Sacri Palazzi. He later nailed down the date as 2004.
That said, Rodríguez Maradiaga remains a dynamic, attractive and relatively young (65) cardinal whose name will stay high on the list of possible papal candidates.