Europe Tightens Lock on Selection of Next Pope: Chart of the Day

Europe, home to 35 percent of Catholics, raised its representation in the college of cardinals to more than half since the last papal election, increasing the odds that the leaders of the church will pick a European for the 100th time.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows European cardinals now make up 52 percent of the Conclave while the proportion of cardinals from Africa and Latin America has fallen since 1978, when John Paul II was elected.

Catholics made up 65 percent of Europe’s population in 1910 and 24 percent in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. A century ago, 26 percent of the world’s Catholics lived in Italy and France. Now, just 8.1 percent do.

Both Benedict XVI, a German, and his predecessor, a Pole, promoted to the top like-minded clergy who shared their conservative views. The resulting configuration of the church’s hierarchy reflects this theological and geographic bias, according to Father Thomas Reese, author of “Inside the Vatican” and a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington.

Benedict has hand-picked more than half the cardinals who will elect his successor, Reese said. “He has done what anyone would do -- chosen men who agree with him.”

Italy, which has produced 217 popes over the millenia, has contributed a quarter of the cardinals of the Conclave.