The men who would be Pope
Scola is seen as Italy's best chance at reclaiming the papacy, following back-to-back pontiffs from outside the country that had a lock on the job for centuries.
He's also one of the top names among all of the papal contenders. Scola (71) has commanded both the pulpits of Milan's Duomo as archbishop and Venice's St Mark's Cathedral as patriarch, two extremely prestigious church positions that together gave the world five popes during the 20th century.
Scola was widely viewed as a papal contender when Benedict was elected eight years ago. He is known as a doctrinal conservative who is also at ease quoting Jack Kerouac and Cormac McCarthy.
Dolan, the 63-year-old archbishop of New York, is an upbeat, affable defender of Catholic orthodoxy, and a well-known religious figure in the United States. He holds a job Pope John Paul II once called "archbishop of the capital of the world".
His colleagues broke with protocol in 2010 and made him president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, instead of elevating the sitting vice president. And during the 2012 presidential election, Republicans and Democrats competed over which national political convention the cardinal would bless. He did both.
But scholars question whether his charisma and experience are enough for a real shot at succeeding Benedict.
3) Cardinal Marc Ouellet:
Canada's Ouellet once said that being pope "would be a nightmare". He would know, having enjoyed the confidence of two popes as a top-ranked Vatican insider. His high-profile position as head of the Vatican's office for bishops, his conservative leanings, his years in Latin America and his work in Rome make him a favourite to become the first pontiff from the Americas. But the qualities that make the 68-year-old popular in Latin America have contributed to his poor image in his native Quebec, where he was perceived during his tenure as archbishop as an outsider parachuted in from Rome.
Erdo is the son of a deeply religious couple who defied communist repression in Hungary to practice their faith. And if elected pope, the 60-year-old would be the second pontiff to come from eastern Europe – following in the footsteps of the late John Paul II, a Pole who left a great legacy helping to topple communism. A cardinal since 2003, Erdo is seen as a compromise candidate if cardinals are unable to rally around some of the more high-profile figures such as Scola or Scherer.
Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, is an erudite scholar with a modern touch.
The 70-year-old is also one of the favourites among Catholics who long to see a return to the tradition of Italian popes. The polyglot biblical scholar peppers speeches with references ranging from Aristotle to late British diva Amy Winehouse. He tweets in English, chats in Italian and has impressed his audiences by switching to Hebrew and Arabic in some of his speeches.
Often cast as the social conscience of the church, Ghana's Turkson is viewed by many as the top African contender for pope. The 64-year-old was widely credited with helping to avert violence following contested Ghanaian elections and has aggressively fought African poverty, while disappointing many by hewing to the church's conservative line on condom use amid Africa's AIDS epidemic.
Observers say his prospects sank when he broke a taboo against public jockeying for the papacy – saying that he's up for the job "if it's the will of God".
Bergoglio (76) has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina. The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialised in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope.
Bergoglio has a keen political sensibility and a self-effacing humility his fellow cardinals value highly.
Leonardo Sandri (69) is a Vatican insider who has run the day-to-day operations of the global church's vast bureaucracy. He left his native Argentina for Rome at 27 and never returned to live in his homeland. Initially trained as a canon lawyer, he reached the number three spot in the church's hierarchy under Pope John Paul II. The jovial diplomat has been knighted in a dozen countries.
Asia's most prominent Roman Catholic leader knows how to reach the masses: he sings on stage, preaches on TV, brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies. And he's on Facebook. But the 55-year-old Filipino's best response against the tide of secularism and clergy sex abuse scandals could be his reputation for humility. His compassion for the poor and unassuming ways have impressed the Vatican.
Schoenborn is a soft-spoken conservative who is ready to listen to those espousing reform. A man of low tolerance for the child abuse scandals plaguing the church, Schoenborn (68) himself was elevated to the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy after his predecessor resigned 18 years ago over accusations that he was a paedophile.
Benedict XVI picked the Sri Lankan Ranjith to return from Colombo to the Vatican to oversee the church's liturgy and rites in one of his first appointments. The choice of Ranjith in 2005 rewarded a strong voice of tradition and in 2010 he was named Sri Lanka's second cardinal in history.
To many, Maradiaga embodies the activist wing of the Church as an outspoken campaigner of human rights, a watchdog on climate change and advocate of international debt relief for poor nations. But others see the 70-year-old Honduran as a reactionary in the other direction: described as sympathetic to a coup in his homeland and stirring accusations of anti-Semitism for remarks that some believe suggested Jewish interests encouraged extra attention on church sex abuse scandals.
The archbishop of Genoa, Bagnasco also is head of the powerful Italian bishops' conference. Both roles give him outsized influence in the conclave, where Italians represent the biggest national bloc, and could nudge ahead his papal chances if the conclave looks to return the papacy to Italian hands. At 70 years old, Bagnasco is seen as in the right age bracket for papal consideration. But his lack of international experience and exposure could be a major liability.
As archbishop of Boston, O'Malley has faced the fallout from the church's abuse scandals for nearly a decade. The fact he is mentioned at all as a potential papal candidate is testament to his efforts to bring together an archdiocese at the forefront of the abuse disclosures. Like other American cardinals, the papal prospects for the 68-year-old O'Malley suffer because of the belief that many papal electors oppose the risk of having US global policies spill over onto the Vatican's image.