Search Begins for Pope Benedict XVI's Replacement

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Let the guessing-game begin. With Pope Benedict XVI's surprise announcement to step down at the end of February, Vatican-watchers are already trying to figure who will take his place.

The Vatican will hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pontiff. Around 115 cardinals will vote to decide who will lead the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.

"The cardinals are going to have to weigh experience and the need for a certain level of energy," Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, said.

Deal Hudson, president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network, shared his thoughts on the pope's resignation, on CBN News Channel Morning News, Feb. 12.

Contenders include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's Office for Bishops. There's also Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

Arguments for a pope from the Third World are expected, given that half of all Catholics now live in the global south.

"I think it's quite likely, and I've been watching this as I guess everybody has this morning, and I guess the forerunner is the Cardinal from Ghana, it's very likely, and it will be a great and very important move to make," Regent University professor Corne Bekker told CBN News.

Long shots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Dolan is popular and supports the pope's conservative stance; however, being from a world superpower could hurt his chances.

Several names are surfacing from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including Cardinal Leonardo Sandri from Argentina.

It's the first time in six centuries that the cardinals will choose a pope while the previous one is still alive.

Benedict's resignation Monday shocked the world.

The 85-year-old pontiff has slowed down significantly in recent years, but the Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted this decision.

"He's certainly slowed down a bit," Greg Burke, Vatican communications director, noted. "You can tell he had trouble negotiating steps. He started using a cane a few months ago."

In his announcement Monday the pope said, "I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

Pope Benedict filled stadiums, but he was always considered more of an academic, more comfortable with writing. Some say they'd like to see a younger, more dynamic pope this time around.

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.