1. Cardinal Peter Turkson
Position: President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Why He Might Be Elected: Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in Catholicism. In 2008, Pope Benedict said that the election of a black pontiff would "send a splendid signal to the world" about the universal nature of the Catholic Church. Turkson speaks six languages and is one of the more visible members of the Church, who comes across as both likeable and pragmatic in his public appearances. His extensive pastoral experience in Africa is also a point in his favor.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Turkson sparked controversy in October 2012 when he screened a YouTube video that made alarmist predictions about the growth of Islam in Europe at an international meeting of bishops. Also, as the National Catholic Reporter points out: "As the head of a pontifical council (which doesn't really wield binding authority over much of anything), Turkson hasn't fully laid to rest questions about his ability to govern."
2. Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Position: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Why He Might Be Elected: As prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Ouellet leads the arm of the Vatican that makes bishop appointments around the world. The powerful position has pushed the Canadian cardinal into the spotlight and given him an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the worldwide Catholic Church. He is fluent in six languages and led the archdiocese of Quebec in between two tours as a Vatican official, giving him an enviable political and pastoral background. He would be the first pope from the Americas.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Critics argue that Ouellet's cerebral, introverted persona does not seem suited for the public life of a 21st century pontiff. In 2011, Ouellet said that, for him, becoming pope would be "a nightmare." "It is a crushing responsibility," the cardinal told Quebec journalists in Rome. "It's the kind of thing you don't campaign for."
3. Cardinal Francis Arinze
Position: Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Why He Might Be Elected: Like Turkson, Arinze is a high-profile African cardinal and was on the short list after Pope John Paul II's death.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: At 80, Arinze is too old to vote in the papal election himself and the last non-voting Cardinal to be elected pontiff was Hadrian VI in 1522. It seems unlikely that the conclave would appoint the oldest pope in the history of the church after the health-related resignation of Pope Benedict.
4. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
Position: Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Why He Might Be Elected: Sandri's biography, as the National Catholic Review points out, is one of the most attractive in the papabile pool: "An Argentine by birth, he could be touted as a 'Third World pope,' yet he comes from an Italian family and has spent most of his career in the Vatican so he knows its workings from the inside." His work with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches would put him in a position to strengthen the papacy's ties to the Eastern Orthodox Churches and he has a reputation as a seasoned, capable manager.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Vatican observers have named Sandri as a leading candidate for the position of Vatican Secretary of State, given his bureaucratic background and previous experience in the office under Pope John Paul II.
5. Cardinal Angelo Scola
Position: Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan.
Why He Might Be Elected: Scola's academic background mirrors Pope Benedict's and he has been at the front of the church's Muslim outreach efforts. He established the Oasis Foundation, which brings Muslim and Christian scholars together to promote mutual understanding and brainstorm the future of the Middle East. His extroverted public persona has been compared to that of Pope John Paul II. Also, twice in the last century, archbishops from Milan have been elected pope: Popes Pius XI in 1922 and Paul VI in 1963.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Scola is rumored to have enemies in the Roman Curia (the governing body of the church) and some church leaders are wary of anointing another academic as pontiff.
6. Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga
Position: Archbishop of Tegucigalpa; President of Caritas Internationalis.
Why He Might Be Elected: Maradiaga would become the first pope from Latin America, home to half of the world's 1 billion Catholics. As President of Caritas (a "Catholic agency for overseas aid and development") he has been an influential voice on social issues on the international stage and is a fierce social justice advocate. He has been described as a "Latin American John Paul II" due to his charismatic personality.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Maradiaga initially backed the 2009 military coup in Honduras, a decision that damaged his reputation. He is also considered to be too liberal for the conservative College of Cardinals.
7. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
Position: President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Why He Might Be Elected: Through his "Courtyard of the Gentiles" project, a Vatican-sponsored forum that brings believers and non-believers together for dialogue, Ravasi has led the church's most recent successful outreach to the secular world. He is described as "funny, relaxed and affable... remarkably down to earth for a man of his erudition, having written not just learned tracts but also popular columns in Italian newspapers." Also, Pope Benedict hand-picked Ravasi to preside over the Vatican's spiritual exercises during Lent, which begins this Wednesday.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Ravasi has very little pastoral experience and a reputation as a "European intellectual." He is known to eschew internal political maneuvering, and as a result has not built a support base within the Italian conclave voting block (which represents one fourth of the seats in the College of Cardinals).
8. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Position: Archbishop of Genoa; President of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
Why He Might Be Elected: Bagnasco has proven to be a highly capable leader of the Italian bishops conference and a media-savvy spokesman for the church. He made headlines last year when he attacked then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian leaders for their unethical behavior. As the most senior bishop in Italy, Bagnasco will likely have strong support from the Italian members of the College of Cardinals.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: Bagnasco has never really worked outside Italy and is not a well-known figure in the worldwide church.
9. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Position: Cardinal Secretary of State; Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.
Why He Might Be Elected: Bertone has been assuming more of the day-to-day responsibilities of the papacy in recent years and he has a reputation as the most powerful (if somewhat ruthless) politician in the Holy See. He is responsible for appointing many of the Italian elector-Cardinals who will name the next pope, and, as Business Insider points out, he "knows where every body is buried."
Why He Might Not Be Elected: The master politician has too many enemies within the church. Bertone was the main target in 2012's "Vatileaks" scandal and many cardinals have openly blamed him for failing to "avert the gaffes that have marred Benedict's papacy." He does not speak English or French and is considered by many to be power-hungry and unqualified for the office he currently holds, let alone the office of the pope.
10. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
Position: Archbishop of Vienna; President of the Austrian Bishops Conference.
Why He Might Be Elected: Schoenborn has been a persistent critic of the church's handling of the pedophilia scandal and in 2010 accused Cardinal Angelo Sadano, who served for 16 years from 1990 to 2006 as secretary of state, of a cover-up.
Why He Might Not Be Elected: The Council of Cardinals is unlikely to elect two German-speaking popes in a row. Schoenborn is regarded with suspicion by the conservative elements in the church and his orthodoxy has been called into question. He called for a reexamination of celibacy in the wake of the child abuse scandals and recently allowed an openly gay Catholic man to serve on a parish council.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.