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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Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York
Though he has only been a cardinal for just over a year, Card. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York already has admirers at the Vatican. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called him
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Archbishop Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary
Twice-elected President of the European Bishops' Conference, the cardinal from Budapest is considered to have widespread support from many European cardinals and is well-known to African cardinals, with whom he has instituted biannual conferences, in Europe and Africa. Erdo is also considered a leader in the ecumenical movement with Orthodox churches, a high priority for the Catholic Church. He has earned applause for his work with
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Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras
A papabile (papal contender) from the 2005 conclave, the Cardinal of Honduras, 71, is a major figure in the Latin American Church and at the Vatican. Charismatic and popular, Maradiaga has been an outspoken advocate on social justice issues though some say he went too far in 2009 in lending support to a coup in Honduras to overthrow President Zelaya. He has also raised eyebrows by suggesting that Jewish interests were behind the intense scrutiny of the American media's coverage of the sex abuse crisis.
Photo caption: Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga speaks at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the "moral dimension" June 12, 2006, in Washington, D.C.
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Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston
Cardinal O'Malley's simple brown Franciscan robe and sandals make him a standout amongst the College of Cardinals, and his firm handling of the sex abuse crisis in Boston has won admiration in Vatican circles. Despite perceived wisdom that an American cannot be elected pope, O'Malley has developed a chorus of supporters for his simplicity, seen as an antidote to the complicated politics and power plays of Vatican governance, and for his practicality, such as selling off the cardinals' residence in Boston to pay victims of sex abuse. He lacks experience at the Vatican, but does have important experience ministering to the developing world, having worked in Chile and the Caribbean, and so could fit the bill for a pope in touch with the international scene.
Photo Caption: Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, celebrates Noon Mass at The Chapel Pastoral Center February 22, 2013, in Braintree, Mass.
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Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada
The former Archbishop of Quebec, who pronounces his name "Wellette," is a frontrunner on many papabili lists. He would be an excellent compromise candidate between a European and a Latin American, since he is North American but with extensive work experience in Latin America and at the Vatican. Currently the head of the Vatican office for bishops, Ouellet, 68, is well-known to many of the cardinals and is considered an intellectual in the mould of Benedict XVI, which may work against him, especially as he has said being Pope, "would be a nightmare." His track record in Quebec is mixed, with some reports suggesting that he was not able to turn around declining faith in that part of the world and critics saying he has not done enough on questions of bishops
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Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy
A well-known figure in Italy, Cardinal Ravasi, 70, is currently head of the Vatican's Council for Culture. He writes a weekly column in the newspaper and has a weekly television show. He has instituted "Courtyard of the Gentiles" meetings in major European cities to engage in intellectual debate with leading secular figures, and has commissioned contemporary artists to create works for a Vatican stand at the famous Biennale Art Fair. Cardinal Ravasi was also chosen by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to lead the recent Lenten meditations, which Benedict called, "brilliant." His intellectual credentials, coupled with his popular communication style, make him a leading contender for Pope.
Photo Caption: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi poses during the presentation to the press of Pope Benedict XVI's new book, "Childhood of Jesus," November 20, 2012, at the Vatican.
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Archibishop Leonardo Sandri of Argentina
An Italian favorite, Cardinal Sandri has a long history in the Vatican Secretariat of State and is most well-known for having announced the death of John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 2005. A Latin American of Italian heritage, he could be a good compromise candidate for those who want to see a pope from a developing country, but who can also clean up the Curia. It has also been suggested that Sandri could make a good Secretary of State, given his Vatican and international experience.
Photo caption: Archibishop Leonardo Sandri celebrates mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 13, 2005, in Vatican City.
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Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil
The Archbishop of Sao Paolo, the largest Catholic diocese in the world, Cardinal Scherer is a front-runner for those in favor of a Latin-American pope. Of German heritage and with several years of Vatican experience, Scherer, 63, is seen as a good mix between the old world and new; someone whom Europeans, Latin Americans, and Curia Cardinals might agree on. Seen as a traditionalist, Cardinal Scherer has nonetheless championed the cause of the Amazon forest and environmental issues in Brazil as well as the social concerns of liberation theology.
Photo caption: Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer greets a worshiper while celebrating Ash Wednesday mass at Se Cathedral in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on February 13, 2013.
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Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria
The Dominican Archbishop of Vienna, 68, is a member of European nobility and former student of Benedict XVI. He has spoken out on the need for reform in the Vatican Curia and publicly criticized the Vatican
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Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Italy
The Archbishop of Milan is one of the Italian front-runners for the papacy, not least because two popes in the 20th century have come from Milan. Scola, 71, is known for his work on behalf of Christian-Muslim dialogue through the Oasis Foundation, which he created. He is intellectually close to the thought of Benedict XVI, and is widely supported by the powerful Catholic movement of Communion and Liberation. He was nominated by Pope Benedict to the board which oversees Vatican finances, suggesting that he would also be well-placed to bring transparency to Vatican affairs.
Photo caption: Cardinal Angelo Scola celebrates a mass on February 12, 2013, in Milan's Duomo cathedral.
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Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, The Philippines
One of the youngest papal candidates, Cardinal Tagle, 55, has made a name for himself as friendly, media-savvy, humble yet gifted public speaker. Very popular in his native Manila, he would be the first Asian pope, and his youth could be considered a draw for younger generations of Catholics around the world, yet his inexperience at the Vatican might work against him. He has been applauded for speaking candidly about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and although a papal long-shot, Tagle could just be the fresh new face that many Catholics are hoping for.
Photo caption: Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle sits during a mass at a Catholic gathering in Manila on February 16, 2013.
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Cardinal Peter Kodwao Appiah Turkson of Ghana
A much-talked about papabile, Cardinal Turkson, 64, is seen as one of Africa
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Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz of Italy
Named a cardinal just last year, Braz de Aviz, 64, is a new face at the Vatican as head of the Congregation for Religious, the office which has been responsible for the Apostolic Visitations of U.S. women's religious orders. Braz de Aviz and his American under-secretary have been credited with changing the perceived heavy-handedness of their predecessors with the U.S. nuns, and Braz de Aviz has said it is his aim to "rebuild trust." Born to a poor family -- Braz de Aviz's father was a butcher -- the Brazilian cardinal supports liberation theology's concern for the poor, but distances himself from their more liberal ideology. He is close to the Focolare, one of the growing new movements in the Catholic Church. The least well-known of the papabili, Braz de Aviz is a long-shot but could be a good centrist compromise candidate.
Photo caption: Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz arrives for talks ahead of a conclave to elect a new pope on March 4, 2013, at the Vatican.
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Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea
A Vatican veteran, Cardinal Sarah would fit the bill for those looking for the Catholic Church
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Cardinal Rivera Carrera of Mexico
A familiar face around the Vatican and in his native country, Cardinal Rivera Carrera, 71, was already on papabili lists for the 2005 Conclave. Known as a progressive on social justice issues, criticizing globalization and corruption, he is also an outspoken conservative on moral issues in Mexico. Popular in his native country, his close ties to the Legionaries of Christ and defense of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who was found guilty of sex abuse, has, however, been a stain on his record.
Photo caption: Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera attends mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on April 12, 2005.
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