VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Milan's Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi may be the magnet for moderate votes if critics ofconservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger can unite in balloting for a new pope next week, Vatican watchers said onThursday.The first voting round in the secret conclave, due to start next Monday afternoon, looks like a symbolic stand-offbetween Ratzinger and Tettamanzi's predecessor as Milan archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Italiannewspapers said.
With neither seen winning the required two-thirds majority, the 115 "princes of the Church" in the conclave wouldthen have to decide whether to look for new candidates.
"Nobody expects Ratzinger or Martini to go the distance," one Church official commented. "So there will be adeadlock. That's when the real work of the conclave will begin."
There are no clear favourites to succeed Pope John Paul, and the secrecy shrouding the cardinals' consultationsbefore they enter the Vatican's Sistine Chapel for the conclave makes trend-spotting tricky.
But some cardinals appear to be ignoring the vow of secrecy, leaking details to a few Italian dailies. Most cardinals-- even those from far-away countries -- can speak Italian, so the reporting becomes part of the pre-conclavepoliticking.
SIGNS OF SUPPORT
Vatican watchers say Ratzinger, 77, a German who was Pope John Paul's doctrinal watchdog for 23 years, hasthe support of 40 to 50 cardinals who want his firm line to continue.
Dean of the College of Cardinals, this formidable theologian has delighted conservative Catholics with his vigorousdefence of the faith. But his condemnations of critical theologians have polarised the Church and he may not beelectable.
Moderates and some conservatives oppose him as a Vatican centraliser, they say. They will first line up behindMartini, 78, a respected reformer who has ruled out seriously running himself, but would then need a second-roundcandidate.
"In the cardinals' meetings, Martini is showing great respect to his successor in Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi -- a clearsignal to focus reformist votes on him," La Repubblica wrote.
"These gestures were interpreted as explicit support from one of the most authoritative members of the College ofCardinals," La Stampa observed.
Tettamanzi, 71, is an outgoing man who embodies the "John Paul paradox" of conservative theology and socialactivism.
He defended anti-globalisation protesters at the 2001 Group of Eight summit in Genoa, where he was archbishopat the time, and has spoken about the need to care for African AIDS victims.
NAMES FOR THE NEXT ROUNDS
Italian press reports carried details clearly based on leaks from cardinals that could not be confirmed.
La Repubblica reported most German and U.S. cardinals opposed Ratzinger as a Vatican centraliser.
Corriere della Sera said Martini would garner about as many votes as Ratzinger in the first round, after which bothwould have to step aside for more consensual candidates.
The main moderates mentioned for voting after a ritual first round are Tettamanzi, an unnamed Latin Americancardinal and Lisbon Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo.
If Ratzinger pulled out, possible standard-bearers for the conservatives include Rome's Camillo Ruini, ChristophSchoenborn of Vienna or Angelo Scola from Venice, the newspapers wrote.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, born in Nigeria but based at the Vatican for nearly 20 years, is another theologicalconservative.
In Germany, a spokeswoman for the Herder publishing house denied that Ratzinger was subtly campaigning with anew book that went on sale there on Wednesday. "The book's publication has not come about as a result of currentevents," she said.