Zizola, who covers the Vatican for the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, pointed out in yesterday's edition that Italian cardinals will no longer hold one-third of the votes in a conclave-- the margin which he said would be necessary to control a papal election. While the February 21 consistory saw 7 new Italian members added to the College of Cardinals, Zizola pointed out that this number could be misleading, since the proportion of Italian cardinals is dropping; it is now roughly one-fourth of the total body. He added that Pope John Paul, the first non-Italian pope of the 20th century, has overseen "the national dispersion of the College," which now includes representatives of 56 different countries.
Zizola pointed out two clear indications of the overall trend. In 1958 there were only 15 non-European cardinals, among the 51 members of the College; today there are 66, out of 122 cardinals. And there are now 54 cardinals from the southern hemisphere-- among them, a sizable bloc of 23 from Latin America.
Although 85 percent of the current cardinal-electors have been chosen by Pope John Paul, Zizola cautioned against the assumption that a future papal conclave would produce a "photocopy" of the Holy Father's wishes. He observed that in the past, many conclaves have confounded all expectations, overlooking highly favored candidates and electing relatively unknown cardinals for the papacy. He mentioned in particular the elections of Popes Pius X and John XXIII- - each of whom was elected despite widespread assumptions that a different cardinal would emerge victorious from the conclave.