From John Allen:
Journalists are often derided as a fairly un-churched bunch, but yesterday the 5,000-plus reporters covering the conclave swelled the churches of Rome to catch a glimpse of cardinals saying Mass, hoping to pick up some hint of what to expect when things get underway tomorrow.
“Last time there was a figure with real weight, three or four times more so than the rest of the cardinals. We’re talking about Joseph Ratzinger,” the 62-year-old Barbarin said in brief comments to reporters.
“It’s not like that now. Therefore, the choice has to be made among one, two, three, four … a dozen candidates. Right now we don’t know anything, we have to wait for the results of the first ballot.”
Barbarin, who’s a sharp cookie with wide contacts among cardinals from other parts of the world, likely would not have spoken in those terms if he felt there was a consensus candidate emerging.
Read on to see who the leading contenders are — and why Allen concludes:
Going in, things seem to be shaping up this way. If we have a pope by Wednesday night, the best places to watch for celebrations will be Milan, Quebec City and São Paulo.
If the conclave extends longer than midday Thursday, however, then keep your eyes peeled, because the habemus papam party could break out anywhere.