Pope Benedict XVI surprised nearly everyone on Monday with the announcement (in Latin, no less) of his resignation, in a move not seen since the 15th century. But what's perhaps less surprising is that the speculation is already raging about who will replace the pontiff. As 118 cardinals prepare to meet in Rome for a conclave in which they'll appoint Benedict's successor, some are wondering whether the shift of Catholicism's center of gravity to the developing world (40 percent of the world's Catholics are in Latin America, and the number of adherents in Africa is growing fast) could result in the first non-European pope in history. Still, while most Catholics are no longer in Europe, half of the cardinals who elect the pope are.
Here's a look at some of the early frontrunners for the job, but with one caveat: the results of papal conclaves are notoriously hard to predict. Sure, Time nailed it in 2005 when the magazine predicted that Benedict would follow John Paul II. But John Paul II, like many of his predecessors, was more of a surprise. As Archbishop Joseph Tobin, the head of the Catholic Archdiocese in Indianapolis, told a radio station today, "There's a really interesting Italian proverb that says 'he who enters the Conclave as Pope comes out as a Cardinal, which means the frontrunners usually don't get elected."
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