As I mentioned yesterday, I was thinking of what I believe the cardinals entering the conclave will use as criteria for who they will vote for as the next pope. Then I will give you who I think are the leading contenders.
Let’s keep in mind a few factors. It has been a very long time since the last conclave and only a couple of these cardinals have any experience in such voting. However, this vote is not a surprise and, no doubt, the cardinals have been examining their brother cardinals for a long time, sizing them up as it were. John Paul has also worked hard at bringing the cardinals together for meetings and synods and consistories at an unprecedented frequency and most of them are very familiar with one another.
Let’s also look at a couple of the traits of the papacy that they are likely going to want to continue. They will want someone who can communicate easily with the world, especially through the media. The new pope will speak at least English, in addition to his own language, and will likely speak at least 3 or 4 languages. He will be congenial and charismatic. He will have had experience traveling to different places in the world, meeting representatives of various cultures. He will also have a keen knowledge of the Roman curia and the workings of the bureaucracy.
Apart from that, the college divides into several different groups (not exactly factions). There is the old guard of Europe. They are the most likely to cling to old traditions, such as favoring an Italian or even someone from one of the historically pope-producing sees, like Venice. They are the least likely to think outside the box. They are most likely, again in general, to vote for the more “moderate” or “liberal” candidate.