Experts are mentioning dozens of cardinals -- some little-known outside their regions, others from predominantly non-Catholic nations -- as long-shot possibilities to become the next pope.
Although nearly all the previous popes have been European, these candidates come from five continents. Some are Italians raised, at least figuratively, in the shadow of the Vatican; some come from the other side of the world.
At a time when the Vatican is trying to broaden its dialogue with Islam, Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, 70, of Indonesia stands out as one of the few cardinals from a predominantly Muslim country.
Ivan Dias, 68, the archbishop of Bombay, India, also comes from a populous country with relatively few Catholics, though much of his career has been spent as a Vatican diplomat, serving in Africa, South Korea and Albania.
Two cardinals from Canada have been mentioned in some circles, though the prospects of a North American pope seem slim. Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec City, is relatively young, at 60. He has taught and studied in Europe and South America. He and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal have both spoken forcefully against moves to legalize gay marriage in Canada.
There are a raft of contenders -- some front-runners, some long shots -- to be the first Latin American pope.
The long shots include Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana, who helped organize the first papal visit to communist Cuba in 1998 and negotiated modest openings with a government that was once officially atheist.
Ortega, 68, has risen from humble origins as a sugar worker's son. He is fluent in French and a skilled pianist. He cuts an elegant and generally nonconfrontational figure in Cuban society.
Roughly half of the dozen or so front-runners are from Europe, and so are many of the next tier of contenders. Among the latter is German Cardinal Walter Kasper, 72, who has headed the Vatican's office for relations with Jews and its campaign of outreach to other Christian denominations.
Last year, Kasper led a Vatican delegation to Moscow seeking to improve relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. He also was dispatched by Pope John Paul II to a ceremony at Rome's main synagogue that was viewed as a milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Portugal is mentioned as a possibility if his colleagues are seeking someone who could bridge a European-Latin American divide. His native tongue is the language of Brazil, the most populous Roman Catholic country.
Italy supplies at least three front-running candidates but also has several in the next rung, including Cardinals Ennio Antonelli of Florence, Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa and Severino Poletto of Turin. Bertone, 70, occasionally provides radio play-by-play of his favorite soccer team, Juventus; a few weeks ago, he made headlines worldwide by urging a boycott of the best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code," which he said distorts the origins of Christianity. Antonelli, 68, is viewed a cheerful man of the people and a relative moderate on most issues facing the Vatican. Poletto, 72, is custodian of the Shroud of Turin.
Two French cardinals are sometimes mentioned: Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who is only 55 and is known as an advocate for immigrant rights, and retired Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, a confidant of John Paul's, a Jewish convert and a skeptic about lists of front-runners.
"All the names that have surfaced have been invented by journalists," he said recently. "What happens is that most of the time, those who get it are completely unexpected."