Bishop of Lismore refuses to speculate

By NERIDA BLOK

THE Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lismore, Geoffrey Jarrett, is making no predictions on who the next pope will be.

"I've studied the form ? they are all men of such talent," he said of the 115 cardinals from around the world vying for the position as head of the Catholic church.

"Anything can happen. After all, who would have dreamt 26.5 years ago a cardinal from Poland would become pope?"

With the ancient Conclave ritual of electing a new pope starting yesterday in St Peter's Basilica, Bishop Jarrett joins millions of Catholics around the world in an anxious few days' wait. "People are saying it won't be a long conclave ? it won't be longer than three days," he said.

Bishop Jarrett said he had every confidence in the election process, which included each cardinal voting in twicedaily ballets until a two-thirds majority for one cardinal emerged.

"Of course, there's an enormous amount of experience in this process," he said. "More than 260 popes have been elected in 2000 years. It's as good as we could have."

Bishop Jarrett said he expected local Catholics to be feeling no different during this election period than others throughout the world.

"The Pope is regarded as a very important world figure, even by people who are not Catholic, or even Christian," he said.

And should Australian Cardinal George Pell be elected, Bishop Jarrett said he would be joyfully surprised.

"Australians are fairly well regarded in Rome," he said with a smile.



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