The unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict the 16th has Roman Catholics all over the world speculating on who will replace him as leader of the largest Christian denomination.
Many believe the next pope should come from the developing world - particularly Latin America, where Catholicism is the dominant religion, or Africa, where the number of Catholics is growing. But there also is growing sentiment that the next pope could be from North America - Canada or the United States.
Within hours of the pope's resignation speech, bookmakers in Europe, always quick to act on news developments, gave odds that Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Nigerian Francis Arinze and Peter Turkson of Ghana were the strongest contenders.
However, cardinals from the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil and Europe have been mentioned in both secular and Catholic news media as possible candidates. In the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, of New York, has been mentioned as a possible successor.
Benedict, a German, was only the second non-Italian pope in more than 500 years; his predecessor, Polish-born Pope John Paul the Second, was the first.
The pope is selected by the college of cardinals, who are the senior ranking clerics in the Catholic Church.
The cardinals gather at the Vatican 15 days after a pope's death or resignation, and take an oath of secrecy as they enter the conclave. They are isolated from the world until a new pope is elected.
The cardinals vote by secret ballot, and the pope must be selected by a two-thirds majority. Ballots are burned after voting takes place. When a pope is selected, the ballot papers are treated with a substance to give off white smoke when they are burned -- thus letting the world know there is a new pope.