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Italian Cardinal Could Have the Inside Track in Pope Sweepstakes

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Is there a favorite to become the next pope?

The Washington Post lists Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola as the leading candidate based on his popularity with conservative theologians and the fact that the 71-year-old came very close to succeeding Pope John Paul II in 2005.

As it happened, the cardinal from Venice lost to Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI, perhaps because he was too young -- that is, in his mid-60s.

However, Scola, a strict adherent to Roman Catholic doctrine but someone who is also media savvy, doesn't seem to have that problem now.  If chosen, he would resume the long line of pontiffs from Italy going back centuries that was broken by John Paul II in 1978.

Familiar in the way of Italian politics, it’s also reported that Scola has a particular empathy for the poor and disenfranchised and is regarded as something of a reformist who has called African, Asian and Latin American churches “beacons of hope” while also encouraging inter-faith dialogue with Islam.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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