Cardinals' divisions include traditionalist vs. reformer theory

(CBS News) VATICAN CITY - The winds of change are speeding up over the Vatican. The conclave vote will determine which way they blow.

Electing a pope is a political as well as a religious event. There are serious fault lines in the College of Cardinals.

Some are traditionalists, many of them in the entrenched Vatican establishment.

And some are reformers -- mostly non-Italians who think the church's creaking bureaucracy and secretive ways are at the root of its problems.

But as Marco Tosatti, a Vatican insider who's been covering it for forty-years, says, the cardinals also split into sometimes surprising camps.

The reformists' standard bearer is Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola.

"Scola is Italian, but certainly the Italians will not vote for him," Tosatta said, laughing.

Scola's support actually comes from outside Italy.

Angelo Scola: Italian favorite, Kerouac fan

But it doesn't come from the U.S. cardinals, who are thought to support New York candidate Timothy Dolan -- at least to start.

Timothy Dolan: Boundless charm, but limited Italian

"They will probably vote Dolan as a first horse, and then if they see that it's good, they will try to push on with O'Malley," Tosatti said, referring to Sean O'Malley of Boston.

O'Malley is a traditionalist candidate supported by many Italian cardinals based at the Vatican.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley: The quiet Capuchin contender

Others favor Odilo Sherer from Brazil.

"The diplomacy cardinals will vote Scherer, I don't know how much successfully," Tosatta said.

Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer: A bridge to many worlds

Father Thomas Rosica, of the Vatican spokesman's office, dismisses media speculation. But everyone agrees the papacy is in play as never before and that a non-European pope, even one from the Americas, is possible.

"It's no longer, 'the superpower can't possibly give us a pope.' I think people are looking to the great countries of Canada, the United States, for example, as offering very significant leaders," he said.

The reformers effectively want to rebrand the church with a more accessible pope, who can modernize its structure. That's the way, they say, to counter all the negative publicity, sell its spiritual message -- and bring people back to the pews.

Complete Coverage: Change at the Vatican

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.