The following are brief sketches of Roman Catholic cardinals seen as possible candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II. Speculation about the next...

Share story

The following are brief sketches of Roman Catholic cardinals seen as possible candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II.

Speculation about the next leader of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics is notoriously chancy, and John Paul himself was a rank outsider whose election surprised the world.

This list is in alphabetical order and cannot be considered complete because candidates do not publicly announce their plans.

Francis Arinze (Nigerian),

born Nov. 1, 1932

Arinze was for nearly 20 years the Vatican’s point man for relations with Islam, a key element cardinals choosing the next pope may take into consideration.

That has fueled speculation he could become the first African pope in more than 1,500 years.

Considered a very spiritual man, he is sometimes seen walking to his office near the Vatican clutching rosary beads while praying, smiling the whole time.

A theological conservative, he was born into an animist family in the village of Eziowelle. He was not baptized until the age of 9, when he converted to Catholicism.

He heads the Vatican department for divine worship.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentine),

born Dec. 17, 1936

Jorge Mario Bergoglio

The archbishop of Buenos Aires is a chemist who stands out for his humility. He lives in a simple flat rather than his luxury official residence and gets around town by bus.

Bergoglio stresses a traditional and spiritual approach to his role. In 2000, for example, he had the whole church in Argentina don garments of public penance for sins committed during the years of military dictatorship.

Fellow prelates took notice of Bergoglio in 2001 when he deftly helped manage a synod of bishops in Rome.

Playing against him is the fact he belongs to the Jesuit order, which has never produced a pope because its members are supposed to avoid church honors and serve the pope himself.

Dario Castrillon Hoyos (Colombian),

born July 4, 1929

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is a strong candidate with a broad range of experience, both in his native Colombia and at the Vatican.

In the 1980s and early 1990s he held powerful and influential posts as secretary and later president of CELAM, the conference that groups Latin American bishops. He was instrumental in steering the continent’s churches away from controversial liberation theology — which tried to combine elements of the Gospel with Marxism — during one of Latin America’s most difficult and violent periods.

To reward him, the pope called Castrillon Hoyos to Rome in 1996 and put him at the head of the powerful Congregation for the Clergy, which deals with priests around the world.

Godfried Danneels (Belgian),

born June 4, 1933

Danneels, the archbishop of Brussels, is a gifted preacher ranked as the main liberal contender for the papacy. He has taken a leading role in a drive to revive the Catholic faith in European cities.

He made waves by urging the Vatican to allow women to hold top posts normally taken by cardinals, by saying condoms could be used in the fight against AIDS and by arguing that Islam in Europe has to reform in order to integrate there. He also wants local bishops to have more say in running the church.

Danneels, a jovial man who gives lively interviews in his native Flemish as well as English, French and Italian, has been a key player at Vatican synods in the past decade.

Ivan Dias (Indian),

born April 14, 1936

Although born in Bombay, Cardinal Dias spent most of his adult life serving as a church diplomat outside India before returning as his city’s archbishop in 1997.

That career path could explain his status as an Asian prelate more in tune with conservative Vatican thinking than with some reformist views that have emerged in the church in Asia.

Dias was a junior diplomat in Scandinavia, Indonesia and Madagascar and held senior posts in Ghana, South Korea and Albania. He also ran the Vatican desk responsible for relations with the Communist world and parts of Africa.

Frequently invited to address conferences abroad, he speaks fluent Hindi, English, Italian, French and Spanish.

Cláudio Hummes (Brazilian),

born Aug. 8, 1934

Claudio Hummes

Cardinal Hummes, archbishop of São Paulo, is a leading Latin American candidate who has refused to allow himself to be called progressive or conservative.

A defender of the poor and outspoken critic of human-rights abuses, he is also considered a theological conservative in Latin America, one of the homes of liberation theology. He agrees with the Vatican view that concern for the poor should be dictated purely by the Gospel and not by political ideologies.

He has criticized government policies he says have increased unemployment but has defended private property and distanced himself from the Landless Movement, which encourages jobless rural workers to occupy unused land.

Joseph Ratzinger (German),

born April 16, 1927

Joseph Ratzinger

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger seems typecast for the role of doctrinal watchdog he has played at the Vatican since 1981. Under his meek demeanor lies a steely intellect. His blunt judgments delight conservatives and outrage liberal Catholics.

Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich before taking over as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1981.

In that office, he has cracked down on liberation theology in Latin America and denounced sexual liberalism in the West. In 2000, his document “Dominus Iesus” (Lord Jesus) angered Protestants by saying their churches were “deficient.”

One of Pope John Paul’s closest advisers, Ratzinger became dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002.

Nicolas de Jesus López Rodríguez (Dominican),

born Oct. 31, 1936

Cardinal López Rodríguez is a doctrinal conservative and a staunch opponent of liberation theology.

He emerged as one of the major players in the church in Latin America after he was made archbishop of Santo Domingo in 1981 at the relatively young age of 45.

López Rodríguez has also been active in the media, promoting television evangelism programs in Spanish for his country and Hispanics in the United States. His message has been one of progressive socioeconomic views and doctrinal conservatism.

A point against him is that he has had little experience with Vatican bureaucracy.

Giovanni Battista Re (Italian),

born Jan. 30, 1934

Giovanni Battista Re

Re may know the inner workings of the Vatican better than anyone else alive today. That could either hurt or help him during a conclave to elect the next pope.

Cardinals looking for an ace administrator and bureaucrat to stay at home and take care of business after the globe-trotting papacy of John Paul could see him as the right man.

Re, whose name means “king” in Italian, knows the corridors of power in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace better than the cleaners. He has held key positions in the Secretariat of State and the powerful Congregation for Bishops.

He is considered an ultra-loyalist who has helped solve some of the most thorny administrative problems for the pope.

Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga (Honduran),

born Dec. 29, 1942

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, another strong Latin American candidate, will be one of the youngest men to enter the conclave.

A defender of the poor, Rodríguez Maradiaga believes the real solution to the problems of Latin America and all the developing world is social justice. He has also been open to working with other churches.

He is an accomplished linguist who speaks English, Italian, French, Portuguese and German as well as his native Spanish.

Rodríguez Maradiaga is a former president of CELAM, the Latin American bishops conference.

Christoph Schönborn (Austrian),

born Jan. 22, 1945

Christoph Schönborn

Christoph Schönborn, the suave and outgoing archbishop of Vienna, has everything going for him as a candidate for the next papacy — except his age.

He is considered a man of broad intellectual capacity, a linguist, a good communicator, an accomplished theologian, an expert in philosophy and psychology, and a deeply religious man.

But few want a papacy that could last three decades or more.

A member of the Dominican order, Schönborn comes from a family of Bohemian nobility that gave him a sense of “noblesse oblige.” Pope John Paul signaled his respect for him by making him the editor of the new church catechism issued in the 1990s.

Angelo Scola (Italian),

born Nov. 7, 1941

Venice’s Scola is the first cardinal from Communion and Liberation, one of the conservative church movements that have enjoyed special support under John Paul. Promoted in 2003, he is regarded as an open-minded conservative and a good administrator.

Scola, who is fluent in English after studying at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was a professor and rector at the Lateran University. In 1995, he became head of its John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family.

He is said to have helped draft recent encyclicals in which the pope restated his strong defense of traditional Catholic teaching on moral issues.

Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italian),

born March 14, 1934

Dionigi Tettamanzi

Tettamanzi, who heads the powerful archdiocese of Milan, tops the list of Italian favorites.

An intellectual, former seminary rector and prolific writer who helped Pope John Paul compose some of his encyclicals, the “little Lombard” has a lot of friends and few enemies.

A theological conservative, he firmly backed Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” banning artificial birth control.

Before moving to Milan, he was archbishop of Genoa and also served as head of the Italian bishops’ conference.

Tettamanzi defended anti-globalization protesters during a G8 summit in 2001 and has championed the fight against AIDS in Africa. Unusual for a cardinal, he is not a linguist and has not traveled much outside Italy.