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Roman Catholic Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, one of two Japanese eligible to vote for a new pope, hopes Pope John Paul II’s replacement will offer more of the same.

“I want to support someone who can continue the course taken by Pope John Paul II, who observed modern society and made contributions to society,” Shirayanagi said Sunday in Tokyo.

“I want to decide (who to vote for) by carefully reading documents such as career history and the contents of sermons,” the 76-year-old former archbishop of Tokyo said.

The new pope will be chosen by a conclave of cardinals under the age of 80, held behind closed doors in line with tradition in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It will continue until a candidate gets two-thirds of the vote.

Shirayanagi said he cannot reveal who he has voted for after the election because anyone leaking information about what goes on at the conclave would be subject to excommunication.

Asked about the prospects for the main contenders being floated to replace Pope John Paul II, who died Saturday at age 84, Shirayanagi said there has never been a case in which someone who was said to be a strong candidate was actually selected as pope.

“This time, too, the outcome is unpredictable,” he said.

The cardinal will be taking part in his first election of a pope. He has a degree in theology from Sophia University and was chosen in 1994 as the fourth Japanese cardinal.

On Pope John Paul II, he said the Polish-born bishop of Rome, who experienced suppression of the freedoms of speech and religion under the Nazi invaders and the later socialist system in Poland, aimed for a world in which all people could live humanely, had contact with people in various walks of life around the world and candidly admitted the past mistakes of the Roman Catholic Church.

“He also preached the importance of dialogue among conflicting parties, such as the time before the war on Iraq,” Shirayanagi said, referring to opposition by countries that include France and Germany to the U.S. plan to launch a military operation in the Persian Gulf nation.

On Japan, the pope constantly hoped the country would serve as a test of how to introduce Christianity to a nation that is industrialized and has high cultural standards but is not predominantly Christian, the cardinal said.

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