With Pope Benedict unexpectedly stepping down in a couple of weeks, who will take up the papacy next? USA Today, Reuters, and Bloomberg list some of the frontrunners. Could the church decide it's time to elect its first non-European leader? Quite a few of the choices fit that bill:
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former Archbishop of Quebec and current head of the Congregation of Bishops, gets a mention in all three articles. He's similar in thinking to Benedict, and has experience dealing with the more secular West. "The electors could get a traditional pick and still say, 'Hey, we're innovators. We went to North America!' He's the eye-popping choice," says one expert. Bookmakers' odds make him the favorite at 5-2, but Ouellet once called the idea of being pope "a nightmare."
- Many are hoping the next pope is Latin American, and the frontrunner there is Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Vatican diplomat and head of the Vatican's office for the Eastern Catholics. He would be the first pope from South America, which USA Today calls "the center of global Catholicism today," with 42% of the world's Catholic population living there compared to 25% in Europe. Bookmakers' odds: 5-1.
- If the next pope were to come from Africa, Peter Turkson from Ghana, head of the Vatican's justice and peace department, is the frontrunner. Bookmakers' odds: 7-2.
- As for a more traditional European pope, a few experts name Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan as a favorite. He's an expert on Islam and Christian-Muslim dialogue, and has "the intellectual chops for the job," says one expert.
- America's own Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, is even named as a possibility—but some think he may be a little too American to win the post.