CAN Praises US For Placing Nigeria On Special Watch List


The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has welcomed the idea of the United States government placing Nigeria on a special watch list for having “engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom”.

The Special Assistant (Media &Communications) to the CAN President, Adebayo Oladeji, disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday.

According to the statement, although the group is not displeased with the fact that Nigeria is being listed for such, it is glad that the global community is not unaware of such realities.

“We are not happy that our country is being listed among the nations where religious intolerance is one of their hallmarks but it gladdens our hearts that, at least, the global community is not unaware of the fact that Nigerian Christians are becoming endangered species in their Fatherland,” the statement read in part.

The list, according to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, contains countries like Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Read Also: US Adds Nigeria To ‘Special Watch List’ Of Countries Violating Religious Freedom

Mr. Pompeo explained that the protection of religious freedom is a top priority for the Trump administration foreign policy and that it will work diligently to promote religious freedom and combat abuses.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram and eight other terrorists group have been described as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

CAN believes that the reasons given by the US for including Nigeria on the list are too glaring to be disputed. Adding, “is it not true that “the Nigerian Federal Government Failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” as noted by the US government?

Read the full statement below.


The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) welcomes the placing of the country on a special watch list by the US government despite the fact that we were not contacted before the decision was taken. We are not happy that our country is being listed among the nations where religious intolerance is one of their hallmarks but it gladdens our hearts that, at least, the global community is not unaware of the fact that Nigerian Christians are becoming endangered species in their Fatherland.

The reasons given by the United States are too glaring to be disputed. The US, like every other country, has an embassy here that monitors and reports back what the country is going through and the approach being adopted by the government to addressing the situation. Is it not true that “The Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” as noted by the US government?

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has made this known to President Muhammadu Buhari in all our meetings with him to see the whole country as his constituency and to avoid nepotism as much as possible; but instead of correcting the imbalance, one of his aides is fond of abusing and insulting the Association using every unprintable words.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, few days ago, called for amendment to the Constitution with a view to adding more Sharia contents. Since the Chief Justice has not denied the story and the government has failed to call him to order, it is crystal clear that the US government has more facts than the government thinks. If the government is sensitive to our yearnings and aspirations, how come no Christian is heading any of the three arms of government in the present dispensation? This is unprecedented in the history of this country since Independence. Is that one of the reasons why no Christian worthy of occupying any of those sensitive positions?

Another slap on our face is the composition of the National Security Council of the country. We learnt that 98 per cent of its members come from one part of the country and people of same faith. Let the government unmask its members including their religions and states of origin. The government is telling us that Christians are not worthy for those key appointments but to play the second fiddle.

So, another thing that could be responsible for the action of the US government is the lopsided appointments in the polity which confirms popular fear and perception that the government is against the Christians. We have made it abundantly clear to President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly that the lopsided appointments of his government in favour of one religion and a section of the country is unconstitutional, violates Nigeria’s Federal Character Principle and so it is unacceptable. But the action of the President is strong enough to convince us that he is not ready to correct the imbalance of his appointments forgetting that the country belongs to all Nigerians irrespective of their religious, tribal and political beliefs. The recent appointments in the Police is a good evidence to the critical posture of CAN.

There are enough evidences to prove that the subtle Islamisation agenda and nepotism are real. All the key appointments that are being made since the second term of the President began follow same blueprint. These are facts and they are violations of some portions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). These include but not limited to Sections 10, 13 (3-4), 15 (2) (d) and (4).

It is widely believed that no country survives two civil wars. We, therefore, call on the government to correct the imbalances and not to be insensitive to the new development but instead address all the factors that are responsible. The government can deny all these facts to the governed but the US government cannot act on mere make-up stories. Of the three arms of the government, none is being headed by a Christian? Why?

Is the US government not aware of the untold hardship Christians are going through in the country, especially in states such as Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba where Christians are being slaughtered like rams by the Boko Haram terrorists and killer herdsmen while the security agencies appear powerless, complacent and it seems as if the government of the day lacks political will to deal with the criminals? Although we are not unaware of the fact that some Muslims living in those states are also affected but since these states are predominantly Christian, the primary targets of violence, barbaric killings and destruction of properties are Christians.

It is a fact that not fewer than 95 per cent of those who are being detained by the terrorists are Christians and the government has been paying lips service towards securing their freedoms. Leah Sharibu is a case study and the only reason why the government that secured the release of her colleagues has not freed her is because of her religion. We wonder why the government has not done the needful to liberate this innocent girl who happens to be a daughter of a Police officer.

It is disheartening and disappointing to note that even the ongoing anti-graft war of the government is not an exemption. While CAN is not encouraging corrupt practices but we are against selective approach to the fight against corruption. From the position of this government, it is only few Christians holding key appointments in this dispensation that are corrupt. This is a fallacious position.

CAN urges the Federal Government to let its policies be implemented according to the dictates of the Constitution. The bitter truth is Christians are yet to be given any sense of belonging since this government came on board. Our prayers include wisdom and the courage for President Muhammadu Buhari to give all citizens a sense of belonging, irrespective of their religious, tribal and political affiliations. He should govern the country as the Father of the nation. We commend the United States for standing on the side of the oppressed and the truth.

Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant (Media &Communications) to the CAN President, His Eminence, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle.

22 December 2019.

Despite Conversion Ban, Christianity Spreads In Nepal

In this photograph taken on November 4, 2017, Nepali Christian Rashmi KC prays during a church service in Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Despite strict laws that ban religious conversion, Christianity has spread rapidly over the last two decades in Nepal, where many see it as an escape from the deeply entrenched caste system.

More than two years after an earthquake flattened the Nepali village of Richet, most residents are still living in makeshift shelters. Only the church has been rebuilt — paid for by Christian missionaries whose influence in the mainly Hindu country is growing.

Despite strict laws that ban religious conversion, Christianity has spread rapidly over the last two decades in Nepal, where many see it as an escape from the deeply entrenched caste system.

The Himalayan nation was ruled by a Hindu monarchy for over two centuries until the overthrow of the monarchy in 2008 and also has a strong Buddhist tradition, particularly in the mountainous north.

But the remote Lapa Valley where Richet is located is now predominantly Christian.

Many residents are recent converts to the faith, among them Rika Tamang, who became a Christian after his mother fell ill and the family struggled to pay for the animal sacrifices a local shaman encouraged them to make.

“Whatever I had, I had to offer as a sacrifice to god,” said Tamang, now the pastor of his village in the Lapa Valley.

“Once I converted to Christianity I didn’t have to make sacrifices. I was relieved of that burden.”

According to the 2011 government census, Christians make up less than 1.5 percent of Nepal’s population of 29 million.

But Christian groups estimate the number at more than 3 million. Locals said the census tended to classify people by the faith associated with their family name, meaning many converts were excluded.

Richet is in the northern district of Dhading, one of the first areas where Christianity took hold. It has since spread throughout the country through an active network of evangelical churches.

But some say well-funded foreign missionaries are using aid to convert people in the impoverished country.

– Community tensions –
In Richet the dust had only just begun to settle from the powerful earthquake in April 2015 when a group of South Korean and Singaporean missionaries turned up.

They surveyed the damage and left. A few months later bags of cement arrived to rebuild the village’s church.

It was the same story in the nearby village of Kachet, where a new church paid for by South Korean missionaries was nearing completion when AFP visited recently.

“We are happy that we don’t need to be under the sky when we go to church for prayers,” said Richet resident Aman Tamang.

“But we would be happier if we had got grants for rebuilding our homes as well.”

Prashant Tamang, a community leader in the nearby village of Borang that has clung to its Buddhist heritage, said the selective distribution of aid had created tensions between communities.

“Dispute arises sometimes when Christians pressure poor people to adopt their religion by helping them in the time of need,” he told AFP.

– Jail for proselytising –
Proselytising has long been illegal in Nepal.

But a new criminal code that will come into force in August 2018 increases the potential jail sentence from three to five years and states that foreigners sentenced of the crime will be deported after serving their time.

Activists say it seeks to curb the rapidly growing Christian community, and have drawn parallels with Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, which are often used to stir mob violence against minority groups.

“We have seen how that has played out in Pakistan. If you have inadequate safeguards then the laws in Nepal can be misused as well,” said Steven Selvaraj, South Asia expert with the UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide advocacy group.

Nepal’s growing network of evangelical churches continues to draw people, and many are concerned that the new law could be used against them.

“The church in Nepal is taught in a way that all believers are taking the commandment of Jesus Christ to go out and tell others about Jesus,” said Tanka Subedi, a Kathmandu pastor.

“So there is quite a big risk that they may be arrested and given trouble, put in jail and also fined.”


Religious Leaders Seek Stronger Muslim-Christian Relationship

Religious Leaders Seek Stronger Muslim-Christian RelationshipReligious leaders are seeking for stronger Muslim-Christian relations, to end the ethno-religious conflicts that have engulfed Southern Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria over the years.

The leaders, including the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, and Sheik Ahmed Gumi, made the call at the graduation ceremony of some clerics from the Christian-Muslim Relations Centre in Kaduna State.

They identified ignorance about the teachings of Islam and Christianity as largely responsible for the various ethno-religious conflicts across the country.

The clerics asked government to rise up to its responsibilities of protecting lives and property, and to also ensure that those responsible for the Southern Kaduna crises were brought to justice.

Speaking at the ceremony, the General Secretary of the Anglican Church Worldwide and Founder of the Centre, Bishop Idowu Fearon, noted that diversity in religion and tribe is a blessing from God and not a tool for division.

“Kaduna will become a state where Christians and Muslims, in spite of our differences, can work together for peace, freedom and the culture of respect,” he said.

On his part, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, condemned the killing of innocent people in Southern Kaduna by gunmen.

He also warned religious, political and traditional rulers against making inflammatory statements that can worsen the situation.

“The responsibility of all persons of faith is so immense, including the obligation to uphold truth and to promote ethical conduct and respect for others.

“Anybody that wishes to be magisterial to issue statements laden with certainty to their followers must first ensure that what they say, or what they are saying is not only factual, but does not violate any laws”, he warned.

The Christian-Muslim Relations Centre is founded to serve as a veritable platform for genuine interaction, and to promote harmonious relationship among Christians and Muslims in Kaduna State.

Stakeholders expressed hope that the engagement would continue to promote interfaith platforms for religious scholars and leaders, as well as foster religious freedom among others.

Jonathan Seeks Prayer For Violence-free Elections In Lent

Goodluck-Jonathan-prayingPresident Goodluck Jonathan has asked Nigerian Christians to pray fervently in the Lenten period for peaceful, violence-free and successful general elections.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, President Jonathan also called on all political leaders to rededicate themselves to the commitment they had made to peaceful, non-violent campaigns and elections.

He asked them to do their best to ensure that their supporters across the nation upheld that commitment.

“In the spirit of that commitment, all those seeking political office in the coming elections should eschew hate speech, incitement to violence, divisiveness and the malicious denigration of opponents,” the statement read.

President Jonathan urged all political parties to join the Federal Government in giving the fullest possible support and cooperation to the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that it delivered free, fair and credible elections.

As the Christians begin the the Lent, President Jonathan urged them to reflect more on all the ideals of human existence taught by Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth.

“Make those ideals, including piety, love for others, tolerance, humility, selfless service to others, honesty, fairness, justice and equity more manifest in your daily lives.”

President Jonathan further prayed that God Almighty would answer the prayers of all Nigerians and bless the country with successful elections, continued unity and further progress.

The Lent is a 40-day period set aside for fasting, prayer, penitence and self-denial by Christians, which begins on an Ash Wednesday lasting till the Easter Sunday.

Okupe Examines What Boko Haram Wants, Promises Victory

Sunrise Okupe BHThe Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe has admitted that the growth of terrorism in Nigeria may indeed be connected to the poor socioeconomic conditions in the country.

Dr. Okupe was the guest of Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise, where he was joined by Journalist, Sola Ojewusi, and a Legal Practitioner, John Oloyede to examine ‘What Boko Haram Wants’.

The group – whose official Arabic name translates as “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” – says it is fighting to overthrow Nigeria’s Government and establish an Islamic state.

Dubbed Boko Haram or “western education is sinful” by locals for its rejection of European values, the sect was founded in the early 2000s by cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, and gained a steady following in the northern city of Maiduguri, preaching against secular values in a nation which is split between large Muslim and Christian populations.

Okupe, tracing the strength of the group back to the founding strategies of its leader, noted that the late cleric gained the loyalty of many youths because he was assisting them to solve issues bordering on their economic challenges, while teaching them his beliefs.

“In his method of recruitment, he stood in the gap, giving social services and helping young people.

“A young man whose parents are not wealthy and has gotten to the age of getting married and he hasn’t got the means to pay dowry and somebody helps him; that man becomes his mentor. So, poor economic conditions may have some measure of role to play in the festering of this phenomenon”, he said.

The provision of economic and social support by Boko Haram – which included providing meals and economic schemes, a youth empowerment programme, support for trading, as well as helping to arrange cheap marriages between sect members – has led some to ascribe the group’s growth to a failure of governance in Nigeria.

Mr. Ojewusi, however, noted that it would be too simplistic to attribute the growth of the sect to bad governance, as the issue of Boko Haram started way before the present administration, and looking at the history of terrorism, it was not new in Nigeria.

“What we are having is an offshoot of what has been from the beginning”, he noted.

While also admitting that Government indeed has a role to play, he explained that examining Boko Haram as an entity should not be done in isolation as it was not peculiar to Nigeria, being an international body. “You have to look at it from countries like Niger, Northern Cameroon, and Chad.

He stated that the escalation of the group in Nigeria showed that there was more than meet the eye and those underlying factors should be what Nigerians need to focus on, if they would find a solution to the menace.

The Legal Practitioner, John Oloyede, admitted generously.

“You cannot tell me that because America has had to contend with terrorism in Iraq is simply because the American Government does not know how to handle terrorism. Even the terrorists took the war to America and they had their way”, he said.

On the view that America differed from Nigeria in the sense that it was not dealing with home-grown terrorists owing to its higher economic standards, Oloyede disagreed, claiming that the situation in Nigeria was also not totally home-grown.

He argued further, “America has gone through the same situation we have now. You can take from history the case of Cuban refugees – those who were sympathetic towards the Cuban cause then. America was on fire, the Cubans were bombing all the places, the Government didn’t know what to do, it took like 10-15 years before they could nip that problem in the bud.”

Referring to an earlier statement by Dr Okupe that poor and unemployed people had become easy prey for the sect’s recruitment strategies, using the maxim “Devil finds work for an idle hand”, Mr Oloyede said: “Poor people cannot afford AK47; they can’t buy these arms and ammunition – anti aircraft guns – that we see, so they are not poor people, we need to clear that from our conscience, because Nigerians we are turning against one another – APC accusing PDP, PDP accusing APC.

“When Al-Qaeda struck America, the American people came together. These elements are using psychology, and we are doing exactly what they want us to do out of fear. We are blaming each other instead of us to see them as a common enemy and face them as such.

“We are blaming our military men that they are not doing the job, they are ill equipped, No. I don’t think President Jonathan or General Buhari is happy with what is happening; they just can’t do anything about it.”

The response and sensitivity of the Federal Government then came to the fore as Dr Okupe defended the President, stating that the case of America’s 9-11 attack should not be compared to Nigeria’s.

“For every attack that becomes visible and devastating, eight or nine have been stopped; but you know when an attack is foiled Government does not come to the air to talk about it.

Okupe, speaking on the demands of the sect, noted that their demands were clear on wanting full implementation of Sharia laws; he added that they also demanded that the Holy Quran becomes the guiding principles of the country amongst other requests which he said could be negotiated if the insurgents were truly representing Islam.

“Today we’ve got infiltration by actual crass criminals who are not really totally Nigerians complicated by political activists who also demand some other things. So it has become an appearance of incongruous gathering of people you cannot easily discern.”

He, however, stated that even as the country is at war with the Boko Haram sect, the Federal Government was working relentlessly to win the war but Nigerians need to understand that the war has been made difficult by the nations peculiar population and topography.


Group Cautions Against Supporting Candidates Based On Religious Sentiments

A group of Christian and Muslim leaders from the North has called on Nigerians to choose their leaders on the basis of competence and issues, rather than religious or ethnic sentiments.

At a one day conference on Religion and Good Governance, organised by Kaduna based Christian Awareness Initiative of Nigeria (CHAIN), participants including Christian and Muslim leaders, accused some politicians in the North of using religion as a tool to divide the common people of the region and other parts of the country for their selfish ambitions.

Convener of the conference and former Secretary General of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna State, Reverend Joseph Hayab, advised the citizenry to ensure the unity of the North and the country in general by not championing overzealous politicians based on religious sentiments, which was capable of destroying the corporate existence in the nation.

He urged the citizens to support quality leadership that would ensure peace, security and development, adding that the country would become better if both Muslims and Christians come together and chase away bad leaders who hide under religion or tribe to cover up their lack of performance.

As the crisis rocking the political scene rages over issues bothering on the 2015 elections, Muslim scholar, IbrahimWaziri, averred that the country will only progress if the electorate ensures that only people with sound ideologies and manifestos are elected into leadership positions and not religious bigots.

The conference was attended by Christian and Muslim leaders across the 19 Northern states, who said they will sensitise and mobilise their congregations in preparation for the 2015 elections.

The Christian Awareness Initiative of Nigeria was established six years ago by a group of Christian leaders in the North, to create awareness on issues of national importance among Christians, as well as promoting national unity.



Caution Political Leaders, Oshiomhole Tells CAN

The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole has said that there is need for additional activism from religious bodies to check the abuse of power by Nigerian politicians.

The Governor who said this while meeting with the National Executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Edo State Government House in Benin City today said he is very worried about the future of the country owing to the gross abuse of power by Nigerian Politicians.

He said that Nigeria is choosing to tread the ground that is threatening our collective existence hence the need for courage to speak up.

Though the governor declined to go into specifics he said the things happening around portends grave danger to the future of Nigeria adding that some politicians do not wish the country well.

He added that he is worried about the democracy of Nigeria and called on the religious group to show more activism in this democratic dispensation as they did with the military.

The group led by its General-Secretary, Reverend Musa Asake, in their remark commended the governor for the work that he has done in Edo State.

How Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission Defrauded Me – Pilgrim

A lawyer and Nigerian pilgrim, Efunbola Coker has described her trip to Israel as ‘horrible,’ stating that the services she paid the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) for were far from standard.

Mrs Coker while speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily chronicled the events surrounding her journey to the holy land which she said was ‘horrible’.

The lawyer, who disclosed that she paid the sum of N406,450 for the trip, added that the services provided by NCPC especially the hotel accommodation were far below standard.

She said the commission had promised a 5 star or 4 star hotel as part of the benefits the pilgrims were entitled to. However, they did not deliver as promised.

Henry Ezike, who had called her to blame the commission’s agent in Israel. She said her group had met with other Nigerian pilgrims who were given better treatment by their agent.

She said she was forced to find other accommodations for the major part of the 10-day trip.

She demanded that the commission tender an apology and compensation for herself and her travel companions.

Nigeria Is Dominated By Evil Spirits – Reverend Ighele

The General Superintendent of Holy Spirit Misson, Bishop Charles Ighele, has attributed the prevalence of vices in the country to evil spirits.

The cleric, while speaking about the relevance of  Good Friday celebration in relation to Nigeria stated that Christians have misinterpreted the religion for mere good works and sober reflection which has caused the essence of it to be lost.

“A day like this is a day for Christians to connect to what happened on the cross. The power of the believer flows from the cross.” He said.

Talking about the many vices prevalent in Nigeria, he stated that “every society is controlled by a dominant spirit,” as well as geographical areas.

He citied San Francisco as the headquarters of homosexuals; Las Vegas as the headquarters of gambling. He added that “Nigeria as it is right now is being controlled by dominant spirits of corruption, of violence… Nigeria is becoming a factory that produces criminals.”

He attributed the surge in crime the country is currently experiencing to the dominant spirits of crime, violence and corruption.

He accused most politicians in governance as being violent men who attain power by killing and hiring thugs in the bid to maintain hold on power.”

He stated that President Goodluck Jonathan, who looks like a non-violent man cannot vouch for those around him who can perpetuate violence without his knowledge.

However, he expressed hope for the nation saying that a man with the right spirit can change a nation.

Imoke Charges Nigerians To Reflect On The Life Of Christ

The Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, on Friday called on Nigerians to reflect deeply on the life of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed all to redeem mankind.

The governor in an Easter Message asserted that it is only through selfless service and sacrifice to the fatherland can Nigeria attain the desired socio-political and economic progress.

“As the Lenten season ends to usher in Easter, let me remind you that we share a holy hunger for clarity about what is good and life-giving, and we yearn to re-focus on what is most central and important to move this country forward”, Imoke said.

While urging Christians to use the Easter celebration which he noted is victory of light and life over darkness and death to cultivate the spirit of compassion and forgiveness, said only these virtues can help in the building of a strong, virile, indivisible and cohesive Nigeria.

He further urged Nigerians to embrace God’s ever-new life with “every cell of our being, every yearning of our soul, and every muscle of our will.”

Imoke added that for there to be a testimony, there must be trials and tribulations, while reaffirming the resolve of his administration to the development of infrastructure and human capacity in the state.

Cardinals Head To Conclave, Church Beset By Woes

Roman Catholic cardinals gather under the gaze of Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” on Tuesday to elect a new pope to tackle the daunting problems facing the 1.2-billion-member Church.

The secret conclave, steeped in ritual and prayer, could carry on for several days, with no clear favorite in sight to take over the reins from Pope Benedict, who abdicated last month saying he was not strong enough to confront the Church’s woes.

In a process dating back to medieval times, 115 “Princes of the Church” from 48 countries will shut themselves in the Vatican’s frescoed Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon after a public Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning.

They will emerge from their seclusion only when they have chosen the 266th pontiff in the 2,000-year-history of the Church, which is beset by sex abuse scandals, bureaucratic infighting, financial difficulties and the rise of secularism.

“We are ready to enter the conclave and it will be longer than the last one,” South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier told reporters on Monday, referring to the 2005 election of Benedict, that was wrapped up in 24 hours after four ballots.

“It will last a few days. Maybe four or five,” he predicted.

The average length of the last nine conclaves was just over three days and none went on for more than five days.

Vatican-insiders say Italy’s Angelo Scola and Brazil’s Odilo Scherer have emerged as the men to beat. The former would bring the papacy back to Italy for the first time in 35 years, while the latter would be the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

However, a host of other candidates from numerous nations also have been mentioned, including U.S. cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O’Malley, Canada’s Marc Ouellet and Argentina’s Leonardo Sandri.


All the red-hatted prelates closed in the Sistine Chapel were appointed by either Benedict or his revered predecessor John Paul, and the next pontiff will almost certainly pursue their fierce defense of traditional moral teachings.

But Benedict and John Paul were criticized for failing to reform the Vatican bureaucracy, battered by allegations of intrigue and incompetence, and some churchmen believe the next pope must be a manager or put a good management team in place.

Vatican insiders say Scola, who has managed two big Italian dioceses, might be best placed to understand the Byzantine politics of the Vatican administration – of which he is not a part – and therefore be able to introduce swift reform.

The Curia faction is said by the same insiders to back Scherer who worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops for seven years before later leading Brazil’s Sao Paolo diocese – the largest diocese in the biggest Catholic country.

With only 24 percent of Catholics living in Europe, pressure is growing within the Church to see a pontiff from elsewhere in the world who would bring a different perspective.

Latin American cardinals might worry more about poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse that predominate in the West, while the growth of Islam is a major concern for the church in Africa and Asia.

The cardinals are expected to hold their first vote late on Tuesday afternoon – almost certain to be inconclusive – before retiring to the Vatican hotel for the night.

They hold four ballots a day thereafter until one man has won a two-thirds majority – or 77 votes. Black smoke from a makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel will show no-one was elected while white smoke and the pealing of St. Peter’s bells will announce the arrival of a new pontiff.

As in medieval times, the cardinals will be banned from communicating with the outside world. The Vatican has also taken high-tech measures to ensure secrecy in the 21st century, including jamming devices to prevent eavesdropping.