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Top cardinal predicts future popes to 'retire before death'

Beligian Cardinal Godfried Denneels, seen as a possible successor to John Paul II, has said that higher life expectancy means it is no longer right to expect popes to shoulder the burden of office until death.

"There does not need to be an age limit ... as the pope must be completely free to choose the moment when he retires," Danneels said in an interview with the Flemish language weekly Knack.

"But natural developments mean that in the future the pope will retire before his death," he said. "We are living for longer and longer and one cannot continue to bear this responsibility when you are 90 or 100, even if you are looked after in the best way."

His comments come amid increasing speculation about the Pope's health. Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn said the Pope was "dying", and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said he is "in a bad way".

Meanwhile a German official at the Vatican said the majority of cardinals in the church are in favour of the new pope coming from a developing country.

"I think that the majority of cardinals, the bishops, and the church as a whole would be pleased if there was a candidate from Latin America, Africa or Asia," Fr Eberhard von Gemmingen, who heads the German section of the Radio Vatican, said in an interview with the online magazine Netzzeitung.

Daily Telegraph/AFP

Knack | God laat zich niet voor de kar spannen
Radio Vatikan - German Section

Belgian Cardinal's women clergy comments reported (8/9/03)
Godfried Cardinal Danneels (
My Man Godfried!

10 Oct 2003