In some ways, the selection of a new pope will have more potential to influence the future of Catholicism than the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then 78, in 2005.
In the eight years since Pope Benedict took office, the divisions in the Catholic world have become more solidified. The West, including Europe and the United States, has been locked in a culture war over contraception, homosexuality and the role of women in the church, among other issues. Meanwhile, more theologically traditional Catholics in Africa and parts of Asia have fueled much of the church’s growth, threatening a standoff with Islam.
In other words, the next pope will have to carefully pick his audience and decide how best to communicate with it without alienating the rest of the faith’s followers.
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