Throughout his steadily rising Church career, Milan Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
The outcome of next week's conclave will tell whether the pattern holds for Tettamanzi, 71, the favorite of many of those who think the papacy will return to Italians after the 26-year tenure of a Polish pope broke their 455-year hold.
A theologian often consulted by John Paul II, Tettamanzi is considered a moderate.
His staunch defense of the pope's moral positions and teachings against abortion and euthanasia, however, could win over conservatives.
Tettamanzi worked on two of John Paul's most important encyclicals and is considered among the ghostwriters.
One encyclical, the 1993 "Splendor of Truth," defended absolute morals against liberal theologians.
The other was the 1995 "Evangelium Vitae," in which the pope denounced a "culture of death" and forcefully condemned abortion, euthanasia and experimentation on human embryos. It also restated the Vatican's ban on birth control.
Short and plain-faced, Tettamanzi doesn't cut a particularly memorable figure, and his world travels are less extensive than some candidates, but he is credited with knowing how to reach his flock.