An Asian Pope cannot be ruled out, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, the first tribal in Asia to be included in the College of Cardinals that elects the Pope, said in Kolkata on Wednesday.
"The way things are moving, the Church has reached a stage where it may not be impossible to have a non-European or even an Asian Pope," Cardinal Toppo, who is also the Archbishop of Ranchi, said in an interview.
But Toppo, who as a cardinal is eligible to be a candidate for the papacy, declined to comment on whether an Asian will succeed Pope John Paul II as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
"There is no use speculating. The papal election is guided by the Holy Spirit." To elect a Pope, cardinals from all over the world meet at the Vatican for a week-long conclave, when they remain closeted in prayer and meditation before creating a panel of candidates.
Pieces of paper containing the names are then burned in a stove. The candidate whose name appears on the paper that emits white smoke is made the Pope.
Over the past few centuries, Popes have been Europeans, more specifically Italians, favourites being bishops of Milan, Naples and Genoa.
A deviation was made about 25 years ago with the election of Karol Wojtyla, Bishop of Krakow, Poland, as Pope John Paul II.