The list of cardinals whom Vatican observers consider to be papabili, or potential popes, includes a number from the developing world as well as from Europe.
Francis Arinze of Nigeria
As a convert and a citizen of a country where about half the people are Muslim, Arinze had special qualifications for the job Pope John Paul II gave him in 1985, head of the Vatican body now known as the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. It is in this role as ambassador to other faiths that he is largely known outside Nigeria and the Vatican today.
At a time of perceived confrontation between Christianity and Islam, electors in Rome might view his interfaith channels of communication as a useful attribute for a pope. And, being an African, he may be viewed in more neutral terms by non-Westerners than a European pope would be. | Full Profile
Claudio Hummes of Brazil
Hummes's views often mirrored those of Pope John Paul II, who named him a cardinal in 2001, and people in Brazil who are close to Hummes suggest he would provide continuity if called to Rome.
Today, at age 70, Hummes heads the archdiocese of Latin America's largest city, Sao Paulo, and is known informally as the spiritual guide of Brazil, the world's most populous Catholic country. Many Brazilians know him simply as Dom Claudio. | Full Profile
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras
Rodriguez Maradiaga, who turned 62 in December, could draw votes in Rome because he represents the growing number and power of Latin American Catholics. In addition, he's respected by conservatives and reformers alike, and many in the church see him as a potential bridge between the groups.
On many issues he is more flexible than many of his peers in Latin America, where conservative Catholicism is standard. But on issues of sexuality, his public statements have followed John Paul's conservative line. | Full Profile
Joseph Ratzinger of Germany
In 1981, John Paul II appointed Ratzinger to his current post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy. The pontiff has on occasion referred to Ratzinger as his "trustworthy friend."
Until last year, Ratzinger's age seemed to be a hindrance to a serious candidacy. Now 77, he is two years older than the retirement age for bishops, yet the pope asked him to stay on, with no age limit. With some Vatican officials discussing an essentially transitional pope to follow John Paul -- a successor whose tenure would be relatively short -- Ratzinger suddenly became an oft-mentioned candidate. | Full Profile
Christoph Schoenborn of Austria
Uniting Christendom's myriad sects was a major goal of Pope John Paul II, and if the cardinals gathering in Rome to replace the late pontiff continue to see it as a major mission, Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn will be a strong candidate.
But he won't be in the running if the electors decide against someone who might last as long as John Paul II, who reigned for more than a quarter-century. | Full Profile
Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi rocketed to the head of the list of Italian papabili, or potential popes, in 2002 when he was named archbishop of Milan, Italy's largest diocese. At 70, he would be the right age for a not-too-short, not-too-long papacy that some commentators think is a criterion that will guide the voting.
He represents continuity with many of the policies of Pope John Paul II, having helped write several encyclicals during the late pope's reign. | Full Profile