The three frontrunners to be the next Pope
British and Irish turf accountants see three cardinals as frontrunners to replace Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Roman Catholic Church.PT0M0S 620 349
ROME: Pope Benedict XVI has made his first public appearance since announcing his resignation, holding an audience on Wednesday with thousands of cheering pilgrims in a Vatican auditorium.
The 85-year-old Pope waved to the crowd but looked tired as he entered the hall in what will be one of his last appearances before he steps down on February 28.
He reiterated his intention to become the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years.
Pope Benedict XVI Photo: AP
The audience of 6000 broke into applause when the Pope spoke in Italian. He repeated that he no longer had the strength to continue as leader of the Catholic Church and called on the faithful ''to continue to pray for me, for the church and to pray for the new Pope''.
The favourite to succeed him is Cardinal Peter Turkson, a 64-year-old Ghanaian who could become the first African Pope in Rome in more than 1500 years.
The cardinal said the church faced challenges in remaining relevant even as he laid out a conservative vision of how to deal with ''alternative lifestyles''.
A conservative contender ... One of Africa's brightest hopes to be the next pope, Ghanian Cardinal Turkson, says the time is right for a pontiff from the developing world. In the background is a painting of late Pope John Paul II. Photo: AP
He said on Tuesday that his biggest challenge, should he be elected, would be to maintain an orthodox Catholic doctrine while ''knowing how to apply it so you do not become irrelevant in a world that has continuous changes''.
Cardinal Turkson, who holds one of the most important jobs in the curia and has been promoted by the Pope, took a conservative line on social issues.
''We need to find ways of dealing with the challenges coming up from society and culture,'' he said. The church had to ''evangelise'', or convert, those who had embraced ''alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues''.
Cardinal Turkson has caused controversy by screening a video claiming Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and by insisting condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.
He said he had reflected on the personal burden of becoming the leader of the church. ''It would certainly mean a lot if I had to be a Pope,'' he said. ''It would signal a lot of [personal] change. I have been an archbishop, which involved a certain amount of leadership and now having to do this on a world level, the dimensions expand almost infinitely.''
He said the Vatican needed to ''restore and repair'' an image that had been ''badly compromised by recent scandals''.
Pope Benedict's eight-year papacy weathered controversies over paedophile priests, tension with the Islamic world and the conviction of his butler for theft.
Cardinal Turkson acknowledged he would be in the running when 118 cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel next month to select their next leader.
Telegraph, London; Agence France-Presse; Bloomberg