VATICAN CITY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world Monday with the announcement that he would resign from the papacy at the end of February, a first since the Middle Ages 700 years ago. Now, the question turns to who will take over as successor.
Cardinal Angelo Scola
He's the archbishop of Milan, a good launching pad for popes, and the former Patriach of Venice, which has also produced many a papal front-runner. Scola, 71, has close ties to the conservative Communion and Liberation movement, is a champion of immigrants' right and has been active in outreach to the Muslim world. Vatican expert John Allen has written of Scola: "If you like Benedict XVI, you'll love Scola; even if you don't, you'll find it hard not to be charmed."
Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Former archbishop of Quebec, he heads the Congregation of Bishops, a power center. Ouellet, 68, speaks six languages, spent a decade as a missionary in Colombia and has strong ties to Latin and South America. He's considered conservative and made headlines in 2010 when he said abortion was a "moral crime," even in cases of rape. In a 2011 interview, he laughed off the idea of becoming pontiff, saying the workload and responsibility "would be a nightmare."
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
Born in Argentina to Italian parents, Sandri was No. 2 in the Vatican Secretary of State's office under Pope John Paul II and now serves as prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. A longtime Vatican diplomat, Sandri, 69, is well-respected but seen by some as more of a top-notch administrator than a theological leader.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi
The Italian-born president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Ravasi, 69, is hugely popular through his Scripture lessons on TV and radio. On a crusade to keep the church relevant, he blogs, quotes Amy Winehouse on Twitter, and criticizes priests for boring sermons. An archaeologist by training, he's a brainy biblical scholar who is seen as a theological moderate.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
The archbishop of Genoa is well-connected, having served twice as the president of the Italian bishop's conference. A baker's son who says he knew he wanted to be a priest in elementary school, Bagnasco, 70, is considered a conservative force in the church. He was the target of death threats in 2007 after comments opposing same-sex unions and in 2011 he launched a thinly veiled attack on scandal-ridden Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other politicians, referring to them as "sad and hollow."
Cardinal Peter Turkson
The first Ghanaian cardinal, he's president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Vatican's point man on Catholicism in Africa. An energetic 64 years old, Turkson is considered to be more moderate than some other contenders but hardly a radical. Asked about the spread of AIDS in Africa, he said abstinence was a better solution than condoms. A couple of years ago, he said the first black pope would have a "rough time" and he wasn't bucking for the job.
Cardinal Odilo Scherer
Born in Brazil to parents of German extraction, Scherer's big advantage is geography; he hails from the region that is home to half the world's Catholics. Considered a moderate, he serves as the archbishop of Sao Paulo and has spots in two key Vatican groups, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
The head of the archdiocese of New York is one of the Vatican's most popular figures -- charismatic, camera-ready and conservative. As head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he hasn't shied from away from political fights, taking on the Obama administration over contraception. But Dolan, 63, has only been a cardinal for a year.