Cardinals and bishops attend a ceremony for the Christmas greetings to Pope Benedict XVI at the Clementina Hall on December 21, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican.
With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Catholic Church, the cardinals in the papal conclave will have to decide whether it's time to look outside of Europe for the next leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. The papacy was considered the realm of Italian prelates for centuries until a Pole, John Paul II, was elected as pontiff in 1978, to be followed in 2005 by the German-born Benedict.
The following are considered leading contenders for the next pope. The explanations of what makes each a contender is provided by Inside the Vatican magazine senior editor Delia Gallagher.
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