French cardinal to reveal next pope

There may only be an outside chance of a French cardinal becoming Benedict XVI's successor but at least the honour of announcing the next leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will fall to a Frenchman.

French cardinal to reveal next pope
St Peter's Square, where crowds will gather to hear a French cardinal announce the next pope. Photo: Xiquinho Silva

French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has been handed the job of proclaiming the outcome of the conclave from St Peter's Basilica.

The Bach-loving former Vatican diplomat will speak in Latin on a loggia over St Peter's Square after the conclave of cardinals announces a new pope has been elected by sending out white smoke from the Sistine Chapel.

"Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus papam! (I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope!)", Tauran will say and then announce the name of the elected cardinal and the papal title he has chosen.

The 70-year-old from Bordeaux has the official title of "cardinal proto-deacon", meaning he is the most senior cardinal from the order of deacons.

The college of cardinals is divided up into three orders: bishops, priests and deacons.

Tauran used to be the top Vatican official for inter-religious dialogue. He previously served as head of the Vatican's diplomatic service and travelled the world for late pope John Paul II.

His own election is seen as highly unlikely but if this happens then it would fall to another cardinal to announce his name in front of the cheering crowds in St Peter's and TV cameras from around the world.

Tautan's appointment should also not be taken as a hint that the next pope could be a French cardinal however. The strongest French candidate,  the Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois is not considered among the favourites, although some experts in France believe he has a strong outside chance.

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.