1,700 years ago: February 313. The edict, if there was a formal one, followed the conversion of Constantine (Battle of the Milvian Bridge) in 312. It would be followed at the end of the century, after the interlude of Julian, by the proscription of paganism: Edict of Thessalonica, February 380, under Theodosius I.
So perhaps the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Scola, will be pope in 2013. The other Italian “front-runner”, Cardinal Ravasi, is less likely. Cardinal Ouellet, a Canadian, is possible and knows Latin America. But, as a friend of mind points out, Canadians are too normal. Cardinal Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, who looks like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, would be a natural successor to Benedict XVI. An American pope, in the shape of Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, or anyone else, is somehow unthinkable. One hears so much secular piety from Americans, and religion from lay Americans, that it would be too much.
Aren’t the other non-Europeans – Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo; Cardinal Sandri, an Argentinian; Cardinal Turkson, a Ghanaian; Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; Cardinal Braz de Aviz, the other Brazilian – less likely than the Europeans and Canadian? But if anyone from this group, perhaps the Ghanaian is the most likely.
The words “Extra omnes” remind one of the days of I’m All Right, Jack.
The other symmetry with 313 would be to have an African pope, Cardinal Turkson, since the pope when the Edict of Milan was proclaimed was “African”: Pope Miltiades. The other two Africans have been Victor I (late second century) and Gelasius I (late fifth).