The Men Who Might Be Pope

It is not a matter of filling John Paul's shoes; there will never be another quite like him. But a lively field of papabili, ranging from moderate to ultraconservative, includes several highly qualified prelates: no Americans, but Italians, Latin American

ALBERTO CRISTOFARI / A3 / CONTRASTO / REDUX

CARDINAL RATZINGER : The chief of doctrinal policy is a formidable kingmaker—and perhaps a compromise choice in an indecisive conclave

With John Paul's death the Sacred College of Cardinals faces the critical responsibility of electing a successor, a duty it has not executed in more than 26 years. Such procedures are fraught with suspense and barnacled with gossip and speculation. Secular and nonsecular observers fall over themselves trying to gauge the political and philosophical mind of the electorate before the Cardinals gather behind tightly closed doors to discuss, debate and ultimately decide who will be the successor of Peter.

The pre-vote guesswork is like nothing so much as handicapping a horse race, and the field is deep but without a clear favorite....

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