I'll not speculate on the issue of who will be the next successor to Peter as Pope of the Cathilic Church. That is better left to the experts who will wind up making fools of themselves if they think they can read the minds of more than a hundred older men who come from vastly different cultures and backgrounds.
The only common threads for these fellows is all but three were appointed by John Paul the Great and their belief in The Holy Roman Church's role in the world.
Whoever is chosen will be filling the shoes of a very big fisherman, an almost impossible task. For that reason a conscious effort may be made to select a transitional pope who will serve as a buffer for a younger successor in a few years. Cardinal Ratzinger may well be a logical choice because of his age. The cardinal identified as John Paul's closest friend is also one of the oldest participating in this election. Eighty is the cut-off age for cardinals participating in the election.
Then again, they may reach into the heart of Africa, or Latin America, or Spain or even return to Italy for the next pope.
The College of Cardinals is free to chose anyone, even a non-clergyman. There has even been a pope selected who had not yet been baptized into the faith. Kofi Anna anyone? (Yes, I gest.)
We'll have a little wait and probably see quite a bit of black smoke before we witness the puff of white.
The Vatican is not a "no smoking" zone.
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