Following Pope Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement that he will resign at the end of February, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic church will meet to choose a new leader in March. Here is a look at the potential candidates to succeed the pope. (Sources: Boston Globe, Associated Press, New York Times)
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Although the chances of an American being named pope are unlikely, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has recently been mentioned in the Italian press as a possible candidate.
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Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Filipinos are hoping that 55-year-old Tagle, who was only made a cardinal in November of last year, could become the next pope.
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Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz is one possibility among candidates from the Southern Hemisphere. Half of the world's Catholics are now found in Latin America.
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Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec heads the Vatican office that helps select bishops, and is seen as a favorite of Benedict. He also serves as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, giving him influence in that part of the world.
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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has been mentioned as a candidate. However, an American pope is unlikely because the United States already holds so much power globally. Additionally, while considered to have a high profile in the US church, Dolan speaks poor Italian and no Latin.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an Italian, will preach the weeklong papal Lenten retreat, a high honor bestowed on Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger before they became Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
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Ghanian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is one of Africa's brightest hopes to be the next pope. Turkson, who is in his mid-60s, is described as charismatic and popular but his reputation suffered last year after he made "alarmist" remarks about the rise of Islam in Europe.
Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, is among the possible successors to Pope Benedict XVI. Scola holds similar theological positions as the previous two popes and is comfortable with the public nature of the papacy.
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Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, who also holds views similar to those of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is among the contenders to be the next pope. Schoenborn suggested that the practices for training priests should be reexamined in the wake of sex abuse scandals.