Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church on Monday when he announced he would stand down in the first papal abdication since Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415.
In a statement read to cardinals in Latin, the octogenarian pope said he no longer had the mental and physical strength to run the Church through a period of major crisis.
Many commentators believe the time may be coming for the Roman Catholic Church to elect its first non-European leader.
Father Rafiq Greish, the Catholic Church’s spokesman in Egypt, does not believe this should be the focus, however.
“I cannot predict whether there will be a pope from outside Europe. It isn't a conversation that matters though. There are 120 cardinals that have the right to vote. It is those people who will have to decide and they will decide on merit,” Father Greish told Egypt Independent.
After the Pole John Paul and German-born Benedict, the post once reserved for Italians is now open to all.
Two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. The upshot of their remarks is that the next pope could well be from Latin America.
Speaking to Reuters, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who now holds the pope's old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said, “I know a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin America who could take responsibility for the universal Church."
Latin America already represents 42 percent of the world's 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in its European heartland.
“The question is not which continent and part of the world. Rather which man will be appropriate for the job?” Father Greish remarked.