Pope Benedict may have shocked the world by announcing his resignation on Monday, but some cardinals apparently started maneuvering for the succession as long as two years ago.
Papal elections are among the world’s most mysterious, with no declared candidates and more bluffing than a high-stakes poker game. No cardinal can openly campaign for a job whose election is said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
But behind the scenes, at meetings inside the Vatican’s thick walls and dinners at the finer Roman restaurants, the cardinal electors size up potential candidates among themselves and drop subtle hints to Vatican watchers in the media about who’s up or down.
This round of discreet discussions, dubbed “totopapa” or “pope sweepstakes” by irreverent Romans, was only kicked into a higher gear on Monday when Benedict announced the first papal abdication for centuries. It will go into overdrive when cardinals from around the world arrive in the next few days.