Facebook To Broadcast Champions League In Latin America

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

 

Facebook will broadcast Champions League matches in Latin America through 2021, UEFA announced Wednesday, in the latest bid by online platforms to tap into the lucrative live sports market.

The deal will make Facebook “the exclusive free-to-air home for certain UEFA Champions League live matches across Spanish-speaking territories during the 2018-21 cycle,” UEFA said in a statement.

The social network giant will show 32 matches per year, including the final, on UEFA’s Champions League Facebook page.

The first match featured in the pact is Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup, which sees Real Madrid face rivals Atletico Madrid.

“We look forward to the launch of this new partnership that will ensure the large community of local football fans is reached in a highly innovative and accessible manner,” UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein said.

The head of Facebook’s live sports programming, Peter Hutton, said the company was looking “forward to helping fans watch these live matches together,” and would work “to deliver an innovative viewing experience.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal is part of a growing effort by web-only platforms to grab a piece of increasingly sought-after sports programming.

On Tuesday, Spain’s La Liga announced that its 2018-2019 season would be beamed for free in the Indian sub-continent in a landmark deal with Facebook.

And earlier this month, Facebook agreed to a deal with UK broadcaster Eleven Sports to show one La Liga and one Serie A game per week on its platform.

Meanwhile, Amazon has secured the rights to show 20 Premier League matches a season for three years in the UK, starting from the 2019/20 season.

The e-commerce behemoth also has a multi-year pact with the NFL reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars to be the exclusive streamer of Thursday Night Football, a deal set to continue through the upcoming American football season which opens next month.

Major League Baseball also reached an agreement with Facebook in 2017 to stream 20 games per season.

AFP

Pope Francis Names 17 New Cardinals

Pope Francis, New CardinalsPope Francis has named 17 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from around the world, many of whom will help choose his successor.

The new cardinals come from five continents, and include the Vatican’s envoy to Syria.

The range of backgrounds “represents a break with custom”, said the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.

Pope Francis has now chosen close to a third of the College of Cardinals who will ultimately pick who succeeds him.

The new cardinals come from countries including the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Mauritius, among others.

During the ceremony, Pope Francis decried what he said was a “growing animosity” between people, and raised concern over those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people”.

“We live at a time in which polarisation and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts,” he said.

13 People Killed in California Tour Bus Crash

Accident, Palm Springs, Los AngelesOfficial reports say 13 people were killed in southern California, US after a tour bus ran into the back of a lorry.  

The crash which occurred on Interstate 10, near Palm Springs on Sunday, also left 30 people with various degrees of injury. Five of the injured passengers are reportedly in critical condition.

Most of the passengers are believed to be from Latin America and were on their way to Los Angeles.

Officials say they are investigating what may have caused the crash. One of the theories they are working with is whether the truck driver had fallen asleep or had a heart attack before the bus veered into the rear of the lorry.

They are also looking to see if it could have been caused by some sort of mechanical failure.

The lorry involved in the accident damaged extensively and clear-up operations have started at the crash site.

The crash has been called the ‘deadliest’ in California for many decades as officials say identifying victims of the accident could take a couple of days.

Pope Francis Names 17 New Cardinals

Pope Francis, New CardinalsPope Francis has named 17 new cardinals of the Catholic Church. Those appointed include 13 cardinal who are eligible to vote to elect his successor when he resigns or dies.

The new cardinals are mainly from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The appointments emphasize the growing influence at the Vatican of clerics from the developing world. Only one of the new cardinals is from Italy, the nation that has dominated church politics for centuries.

Pope Francis, who celebrates his 80th birthday in December, appears to be putting down important markers for the future of the Catholic Church.

Cardinals are the most senior members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy after the Pope.

Customs Allege Plot To Massively Smuggle Rice Into Nigeria

Hameed Ali, Customs, RiceThe Nigeria Customs Service has raised alarm over a plot to illegally import 1.5 million metric tonnes of rice.

The Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), made the allegation during a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

He revealed that at least 117,000 bags of illegally imported rice have been seized by the Customs since January 2016.

Reps summon finance and agric ministers
Impounded bags of rice

The Acting Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, Mrs Yetunde Oni, also corroborated the claims.

She said that the activities of smugglers were affecting Nigeria’s revenue generation, despite its economic recession.

Prior to the development, Customs authority in Ogun State Command decried the increase in the activities of smugglers.

Addressing reporters after vehicles loaded with bags of rice were seized at Idiroko border, the Ogun State Area Comptroller of Customs, Mr Multafu Waindu, paraded 18 vehicles loaded with bags of rice which were being smuggled into Nigeria from the Republic of Benin.

According to him, the vehicles and the grains were impounded around 3:00am at the porous Alari and Ifoyintedo bush paths, in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state where the smuggled bags of rice and the vehicles were abandoned by the smugglers.

Economy In Recession

Meanwhile, Nigerians have lamented the upsurge in the cost of rice from 12,000 Naira to over 20,000 Naira in some parts of the country, a fall out of the economic recession.

Economic analysts have said that more persons could go into smuggling of rice due to the increase in price, with most of them opting for Benin Republic where they could get rice for as low as 12,000 Naira.

While the government is making effort to address the economic challenges, a World Economic Outlook report released by the International Monetary Fund had predicted that the Nigerian economy would grow by 0.6% in 2017.

The report revealed that Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product was expected to increase marginally by 0.6% with Consumer Prices rising by 17.1%, effectively lifting the country out of an officially declared recession.

Attacks On Oil Facilities

The recession was a result of the drop in the price of crude oil and the attacks on the nation’s oil facilities by some militant groups in the Niger Delta region.gas-pipeline-vandalisation

Some militants under the umbrella of the Niger Delta Avengers have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks which have drawn the attention of the Nigerian Government and some other foreign governments.

Disturbed by the spate of the militants’ activities, the Nigerian Army launched a special team code named “Operation Crocodile Smile”, as the government agreed to dialogue with the militants after a ceasefire agreement from both sides.

In spite of the development, both military and militants have continued to point accusing fingers, alleging a breach of agreements as the military said it would not hesitate to repel militants’ attack in the region.

 

IMF Predicts Nigeria Will Be Out of Recession By 2017

IMF, Nigeria, Recession, 2017The International Monetary Fund has predicted that the Nigerian economy will grow by 0.6% in 2017, effectively lifting the country out of an officially declared recession.

In the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product is expected to increase marginally by 0.6% with Consumer Prices rising by 17.1%.

Nigeria’s Current Account Balance is however forecast to slump further by 0.4% next year.

According to the Bretton Woods institution, the projected increase in global growth in 2017 to 3.4% hinges crucially on rising growth in emerging market and developing economies.

IMF, Nigeria, Recession, 2017Beyond 2017, IMF expects global growth to gradually increase by 3.8% in 2021.

This recovery in global activity, which is expected to be driven entirely by emerging market and developing economies, is premised on the normalization of growth rates in countries like Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Latin America, and parts of the Middle East.

Sub-Saharan economies

In its spot assessment of sub-Saharan Africa, IMF sees increasing multi-speed growth.

IMF, Nigeria, Recession, 2017
IMF’s latest forecasts on fiscal balance and Gross Public Debt [Click here to view full image]
The institution however revised down growth projections for the last quarter of 2016 in the region to reflect the challenging macroeconomic conditions in economies like Nigeria.

In Nigeria for example, this revision was based on the contracted economic activity followed by disruptions to oil production, foreign currency shortages resulting from lower oil receipts, lower power generation, and weak investor confidence.

It says GDP projections in South Africa remains flat.

The report added that policy uncertainty in the country is making the adjustment to weaker terms of trade more difficult and that South Africa won’t see any modest recovery till next year as the commodity and drought shocks dissipate and power supply improves.

Angola is similarly adjusting to a sharp drop in oil export receipts. It is not expected to grow this year and will experience only feeble growth next year.

By contrast, several of the region’s non-resource exporters, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, are expected to continue to expand very robustly at more than 5% in 2016, benefiting from low oil prices and enjoying healthy private consumption and investment growth rates.

Off the mark?

For Nigeria, there have been several predictions about when the country’s economy will turn the corner.

Global credit rating agency, Moody’s, also predicts that Nigeria will be out of recession in 2017.

A Senior Vice President at Moody’s, Aurelien Mali said they expect Nigeria to contain pressures on its public finances in the short term.

IMF, Nigeria, Recession, 2017The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele a few weeks ago however projected that the nation’s economy will exit the recession by the end of this year.

He says this follows the various measures put in place by the Federal Government and monetary authorities becomes manifest.

One of such measures he listed includes the establishment of a bridge fund to stimulate the economy.

In his words, “The worst is over…”

UK Records Four Cases Of Zika Virus

MosquitoFour cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the United Kingdom.

A public health doctor in England, Dilys Morgan, said four “travel-associated” cases of the virus had been found in the last six weeks.

The main concern surrounding the virus is a possible link between the virus and a rise in cases of microcephaly, a birth defect characterised by an abnormally small head that can result in developmental problems.

Zika is spreading rapidly through Latin America and most people who contract it have either mild or no symptoms.

The World Health Organisation declared Zika a global emergency last month, with some countries discouraging nationals from travelling to Latin American counties.

Zika Virus: Nigeria Issues Travel Restrictions To Latin America

MosquitoThe Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria has issued a travel restriction to Latin America, especially by pregnant women until the Zika Virus outbreak situation improves.

In a statement by the Ministry on Friday, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, assured Nigerians that there was no case of the Zika Virus in the country.

The Minister, however, directed the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to include Zika Virus diagnosis as part of the ongoing efforts to manage Lassa fever outbreak.

The World Health Organization has raised a global alert because the disease has spread in Brazil and 22 countries in the Americas.

The Zika Virus disease is transmitted through the bite of a particular mosquito known as Aedes Aegypti with symptoms such as mild fever, rash, joint pain and red eye.

If the virus gets into a pregnant woman, it can cause birth defects in the unborn baby.

At the moment, there is no cure or vaccine for the virus.

Nigeria is currently trying to contain Lassa Fever that has claimed over 40 lives across the country, with the latest deaths occurring in Lagos and Ebonyi States.

The disease is an acute and often fatal viral disease, with fever and usually acquired from infected rats.

 

Kachikwu Replaces Diezani At OPEC Conference In Vienna

nnpcAs the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is set to meet in Vienna on Friday, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum, and head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has been named as the new conference President of the Organisation.

Dr. Kachikwu replaces Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who was named the first female President of OPEC in November last year.

The minister is calling for a delay in Iran’s intended oversupply of crude oil in order to control pricing that has dropped near 20 percent in 2015.

Ahead of Friday’s meeting, US crude oil price climbed 1.40 percent early today trading at 40 Dollars 23 cents per barrel, Brent was up 48 cents at 42 Dollars 97 cents per barrel.

Ahead of Fridy’s meeting analysts expect OPEC whose 12 member nations from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America pump out about one third of the world’s oil, to leave its daily oil output target at 30 million barrels.

Nobel Winner Garcia Marquez, Master Of Magical Realism, Dies At 87

File photo of Garcia Marquez standing outside his house on his 87th birthday in Mexico CityGabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author whose beguiling stories of love and longing brought Latin America to life for millions of readers and put magical realism on the literary map, died on Thursday.

A prolific writer who started out as a newspaper reporter, Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece was “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” a dream-like, dynastic epic that helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

Garcia Marquez, aged 87, died at his home in Mexico City, where he had returned from hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia.

Known affectionately to friends and fans as “Gabo,” Garcia Marquez was Latin America’s best-known and most beloved author and his books have sold in the tens of millions.

Although he produced stories, essays and several short novels such as “Leaf Storm” and “No One Writes to the Colonel” early in his career, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.

He then found it in dramatic fashion with “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” an instant success on publication in 1967. Mexican author Carlos Fuentes dubbed it “Latin America’s Don Quixote” and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda also compared it to Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century tour de force.

Garcia Marquez’s novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the languid town of Aracataca close to Colombia’s Caribbean coast where he was born on March 6, 1927, and raised by his maternal grandparents.

In it, Garcia Marquez combines miraculous and supernatural events with the details of everyday life and the political realities of Latin America. The characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of insomnia envelops Macondo, swarms of yellow butterflies mark the arrival of a woman’s lover, a child is born with a pig’s tail and a priest levitates above the ground.

At times comical and bawdy, and at others tragic, it sold over 30 million copies, was published in dozens of languages and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.

A stocky man with a quick smile, thick mustache and curly hair, Garcia Marquez said he found inspiration for the novel by drawing on childhood memories of his grandmother’s stories – laced with folklore and superstition but delivered with the straightest of faces.

“She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness,” he said in a 1981 interview. “I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself, and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”

Although “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was his most popular creation, other classics from Garcia Marquez included “Autumn of the Patriarch”, “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”.

Tributes poured in following his death.

“The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers – and one of my favorites from the time I was young,” said U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Your life, dear Gabo, will be remembered by all of us as a unique and singular gift, and as the most original story of all,” Colombian pop star Shakira wrote on her website alongside a photograph of her hugging Garcia Marquez.

In Aracataca, a lone trumpet played on Thursday night as residents held a candlelight vigil for the man who made the town famous.

MAGIC AND REALITY

Garcia Marquez was one of the prime exponents of magical realism, a genre he described as embodying “myth, magic and other extraordinary phenomena.”

His most prolific years coincided with a turbulent period in much of Latin America, where right-wing dictators and Marxist revolutionaries fought for power.

Chaos was often the norm, political violence ripped some countries to shreds and life verged on the surreal. Magical realism struck a chord.

“In his novels and short stories we are led into this peculiar place where the miraculous and the real converge. The extravagant flight of his own fantasy combines with traditional folk tales and facts, literary allusions and tangible – at times obtrusively graphic – descriptions approaching the matter-of-factness of reportage,” the Swedish Academy said when it awarded Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize in 1982.

Garcia Marquez admired Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and was also influenced by esteemed Latin American writers Juan Rulfo of Mexico and Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges.

U.S. author William Faulkner inspired Garcia Marquez to create “the atmosphere, the decadence, the heat” of Macondo, named after a banana plantation on the outskirts of Aracataca.

“This word had attracted my attention ever since the first trips I had made with my grandfather, but I discovered only as an adult that I liked its poetic resonance,” he wrote in his memoirs, “Living to Tell the Tale.”

Fans will pay their last respects to him in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on Monday and he will be cremated in a private ceremony.

POLITICS, LITERARY FEUD

Like many of his Latin American literary contemporaries, Garcia Marquez became increasingly involved in politics and flirted with communism.

He spent time in post-revolution Cuba and developed a close friendship with communist leader Fidel Castro, to whom he sent drafts of his books.

“A man of cosmic talent with the generosity of a child, a man for tomorrow,” Castro once wrote of his friend. “His literature is authentic proof of his sensibility and the fact that he will never give up his origins, his Latin American inspiration and loyalty to the truth.”

The United States banned Garcia Marquez from visiting for years after he set up the New York branch of communist Cuba’s official news agency and was accused of funding leftist guerrillas at home.

He once condemned the U.S. war on drugs as “nothing more than an instrument of intervention in Latin America” but he became friends with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

“He captured the pain and joy of our common humanity in settings both real and magical. I was honored to be his friend and to know his great heart and brilliant mind for more than 20 years,” Clinton said on Thursday.

Despite his reputation as a left-leaning intellectual, critics say Garcia Marquez didn’t do as much as he could have done to help negotiate an end to Colombia’s long conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people.

Instead, he left his homeland and went to live in Mexico. The damning criticism he leveled at his homeland still rings heavily in the ears of some Colombians.

He was also a protagonist in one of literature’s most talked-about feuds with fellow Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.

The writers, who were once friends, stopped speaking to each other after a day in 1976 when Vargas Llosa gave Garcia Marquez a black eye in a dispute – depending on who one believes – over politics or Vargas Llosa’s wife.

But Vargas Llosa paid tribute to Garcia Marquez on Thursday, calling him a “great writer” whose novels would live on.

Politics and literary spats aside, Garcia Marquez’s writing pace slowed down in the late 1990s.

A heavy smoker for most of his life, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1999, although the disease went into remission after chemotherapy treatment.

None of his latest works achieved the success of his earlier novels.

One of those, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” told the story of a 50-year love affair inspired by his parents’ courtship.

It was made into a movie starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem in 2007, but many critics were disappointed and said capturing the sensuous romance of Garcia Marquez’s novel had proved too tough a challenge.

Garcia Marquez’s most recent work of fiction, “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” got mixed reviews when it was released in 2004. The short novel is about a 90-year-old man’s obsession with a 14-year-old virgin, a theme some readers found disturbing.

Garcia Marquez is survived by Mercedes Barcha, his wife of more than 55 years, and by two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

When he was working, Garcia Marquez would wake up before dawn every day, read a book, skim through the newspapers and then write for four hours. His wife would put a yellow rose on his desk.

His last public appearance was on his 87th birthday in March when he came out from his Mexico City home to smile and wave at well-wishers, a yellow rose in the lapel of his gray suit.

Snowden’s Search For Asylum Is Fruitless So Far

Several countries on Tuesday spurned asylum requests from Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted for leaking secrets, despite an appeal from Venezuela for the world to protect him.

Snowden, who revealed the secret U.S. electronic surveillance program Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from the espionage charges in the United States.

The 30-year-old is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly on to a hoped-for destination in Latin America because he has no legal travel documents and no Russian visa to leave the airport.

On Monday, he broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programs and that he was being illegally persecuted.

That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should give up his “anti-American activity”.

But while country after country denied his asylum requests on technical grounds, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has “done something very important for humanity”.

“He deserves the world’s protection,” President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow.

“He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him…Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war.”

Maduro said he would consider an asylum application. Snowden’s request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, has seemingly ended.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.

“MISTAKE”

Snowden has prepared asylum requests in countries including India, China, Brazil, Ireland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks has said.

But several countries, including Snowden’s favored Ecuador, said on Tuesday they could not consider an asylum request from Snowden unless he was on their territory.

Norway said he was unlikely to get asylum there, and Poland said it would not give a “positive recommendation” to any request. Finland, Spain, Ireland and Austria said he had to be in their countries to make a request, while India said “we see no reason” to accept his petition.

France said it had not received a request.

Officials in Russia, which has made clear it wants Snowden to leave, say an embassy car would be considered foreign territory if a country picked him up – possibly a message to leaders of oil-producing countries in Moscow for talks this week.

Snowden’s options have narrowed sharply.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was quoted in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Monday as saying he could not consider the asylum request and that giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part”.

“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical,” he said, adding that Snowden was now Moscow’s problem.

Moscow is unwilling to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, and has no extradition treaty with Washington. But it also does not want to damage ties with the United States over a man with whom Putin, a former KGB spy, has little sympathy.

At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brunei, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had raised Snowden “from our point of view” despite the affair not being in their domain.

“Russia has never extradited anyone, is not extraditing anyone and will not extradite anyone,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.

Peskov said Snowden showed no sign of stopping releasing secret U.S. documents and added that he had abandoned his intention of staying in Russia.

In an undated letter to Ecuador’s Correa seen by Reuters, Snowden said he was “dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world”. “I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” Snowden said in the letter.

African Pope Possible, Says Cardinal

Cardinal Kurt Koch, a close aide of Pope Benedict who will cast his vote for the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, says there is no reason why the new pontiff cannot be African or Latin American.

Koch, head of the Vatican department that deals with Christian unity and relations with Jews, also said he had had no doubt that Pope Benedict would resign rather than rule for life, and said that future popes would be free to do the same.

“The challenges of the Church in the world are very different on different continents: in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America. The question is ‘where will the challenges be greater, on which continent, should it be a pope for, above all, Latin America, for Africa … ,” Koch told Reuters in an interview.

“I can imagine taking a step towards a black pope, an African pope or a Latin American pope. I can imagine this.”

Koch, 62, a soft-spoken Swiss, will be one of the 117 cardinals under the age of 80 who are eligible to enter a secretive conclave to elect the next pope that is expected to start in mid-March.

There has been much speculation in the Church on whether the man to succeed Benedict should be a non-European, which would be a first in more than a millennium.

While the Church in Europe is polarized and has dwindling congregations, the Church in Africa is growing and in Latin America it remains large and vibrant despite inroads by Protestant evangelical groups.

THRIVING

There are several leading candidates from outside the Old Continent.

Latin Americans include Brazilian Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paulo and Argentine Leonardo Sandri, who works in the Vatican and whose parents are of Italian origin.

Peter Turkson from Ghana, head of the Vatican’s justice and peace department, is often tipped as Africa’s front runner.

There is a thriving Church in the Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, birthplace of one cardinal who is often mentioned as a candidate, Luis Antonio Tagle.

Asked to provide a job description for the next pope, Koch paused for few seconds and said: “I think each pope has to have four qualities: First of all, deep faith, then, sound doctrine, charisma and a capacity to govern.”

The next pope, whatever his age, could rule for life if he wanted to, like most of his predecessors, or resign for health reasons, Koch said.

Still, he acknowledged that the cardinals were navigating in uncharted waters.

The last pope to leave office willingly was Celestine V, a saintly hermit whose served only a few months before abdicating in 1294 and was imprisoned by his successor in a castle south of Rome. Another pope, Gregory XII, reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute to a rival claimant to the papacy.

“It is clear that this is a situation that is totally new. The cardinals must choose the new pope with the presence of the living pope. We still don’t know what effect it will have. It makes a great difference if the pope is dead or alive,” Koch said.

Benedict has said he would be “hidden to the world” after his resignation on February 28 and the Vatican has said he will not try to influence the choice of his successor. He will move to the papal summer residence south of Rome and then in April, after the conclave, into a convent inside the Vatican.

VERY SECRET

Koch cautioned against making predictions on who the next pope could be.

“The election is very secret, even in the conclave, no one knows who the other person is voting for as we put our ballots in the chalice,” he said.

Koch, who was in the room when Benedict announced his resignation to a small group of cardinals in Latin on Monday, said he was surprised only by the timing.

“I always said if any pope would resign it would be Benedict … this move was very characteristic of his personality. He never wanted to put himself at the centre of things,” Koch said.

“We now see that behind the ministry (of any pope) there is a human person … these are decisions of individual conscience. John Paul decided not to come down from the cross, as he put it, and retained the ministry to his death,” Koch said.

“John Paul reflected long and hard on that and came to his decision. Benedict is another person and he came to another decision and I think we have to accept this decision of conscience and not think about all the consequences that it could bring about.”