The Papal Conclave will meet at the end of February. They will be locked in the Sistine Chapel and not allowed to leave until a new pope is chosen. It requires a 2/3 vote of the eligible voting members (they have to be under 80 years of age) to select a pope. While the cardinals with voting power could in theory choose anyone, it will almost certainly be a fellow cardinal. It is highly probable the choice will be socially conservative, a follower of the theology and policies of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The leading candidates are all polyglots (most of these candidates speak five or more languages).
I would suspect either an African or Latin American pontiff will be the choice (possibly an Asian). In Africa (especially) but also in Asia the church is growing. In Latin America, there is a feeling that its time has come. The European old guard of cardinals (Europe stills control a lot of votes beyond their demographic size) recognize that. But given how Italians would love to see an Italian back as the Bishop of Rome, I would not be surprised by a Latin American pick of Italian heritage.
The Blogmocracy did a post on possible papal picks.
Michael Potemra at NRO on Ravasi and Scola. More from Potemra here.
Kathryn Jean Lopez on Cardinal Ouellet and Cardinal Dolan (While Cardinal Timothy Dolan is obviously qualified and a good man, she recognizes a pope from the United States is unlikely).
As the Papal Conclave starts, potential front runners are discussed...
|Cardinal Peter Turkson, Ghana|
|Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Quebec, Canada|
|Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Shi Lanka|
|Cardinal Angela Scola, Italy|
|Cardinal Robert Sarah, Guinea|
|Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Brazil|
|Cardinal Francis Arinze, Nigeria|
|Cardinal Péter Erdő, Hungary|
|Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Philippines|
|Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Argentina (he is also Italian)|
|Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Italy|