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Who is Cardinal Leonardo Sandri?

Who he is: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri is an Argentine cardinal who is currently the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. He is also a leading papabili — candidate for pope — following the resignation of Benedict XVI in February 2013.

His origins: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri was born November 18, 1943 in Buenos Aires to Italigan immigrants to Argentina. After attending his local seminary, Sandri was ordained in 1967 and then left for Rome, where he trained as a diplomat at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

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His career track: From there, Sandri embarked on a diplomatic career in the Vatican Secretariat of State, traveling to United States, Venezuela, and Mexico.

In September 2000, he became the Substitute for General Affairs, the third-ranking church official behind the pope and the Cardinal Secretary of State. Sandri became close to Pope John Paul II, speaking on his behalf when the ailing pontiff lost his voice. When John Paul II died in April 2005, Sandri was the one to announce his death to the world from St. Peter’s square.

In 2007, he was appointed the head of the Eastern Catholic churches and was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI.

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His beliefs: Sandri is considered a practical moderate. As a diplomat with little pastoral experience, he has not issued the kind of hot-button statements some of his fellow cardinals have.

Why he might be pope: For the March 2013 papal conclave, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri is viewed as a strong candidate to become pope. He bridges Europe to Latin America, a key constituency, and can provide strong, practical governance to a church beset by controversies.

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