Who Will Be the Next Pope?

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Who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI as the head of the Roman Catholic Church? No one will know until the white smoke comes out the conclave room chimney.

That hasn't stopped Vatican followers from rampantly speculating, however, and The College of Cardinals has no shortage of factors - and candidates - to consider.

Below are some of the key figures of the world's biggest Christian church whose names have emerged from experts as strong candidates to be the next Pope:

Pope Candidates

UPDATE, 3/13: The conclave is over, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina will become the new pontiff, and the first-ever Latin-American Pope.

He will henceforth be known as Pope Francis I.

The Argentine Cardinal was not one of the figures profiled below in advance of the conclave. Shows what we - and the experts - know, right?

Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71: He's the archbishop of Milan, a good launching pad, and the former Patriarch of Venice, which has produced many a papal candidate.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68: A frontrunner, the former archbishop of Quebec, who heads the Congregation of Bishops, also speaks six languages.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69: Born in Argentina to Italian parents, Sandri was No. 2 in the Vatican Secretary of State's office under Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, 70: The Italian-born president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Ravasi is seen as both media-savvy and hugely popular.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 70: The archbishop of Genoa is well-connected, having served twice as the president of the Italian bishop's conference.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64: 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.

Cardinal Odilo Scherer, 63: Born in Brazil to parents of German extraction, Scherer's edge is geography; he hails from a region that is home to half the world's Catholics.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 63: The head of the archdiocese of New York is seen as one of the Vatican's most popular figures - charismatic, camera-ready and conservative.

Who do you think will be the next Pope?


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