The surprise announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning set the stage for the Vatican to elect a new pope by mid-March, and opened up the possibility that the papacy could be filled by a non-European for the first time in the modern era.
Below are papal succession candidates listed by region, along with the region's percentage of the world's Catholic population:
EUROPE (24 percent of world's Catholic population)
- Angelo Scola, 71, Italy
Scola is the archbishop of Milan and is considered one of the favorites to succeed Pope Benedict. He founded the Oasis International Foundation, whose goal is to promote understanding between Christians and Muslims.
- Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, Italy
Ravasi serves as the president of the Vatican's council for culture and became a cardinal in 2011.
- Christoph Schoenborn, 67, Austria
Schoenborn is the archbishop of Vienna. In 2012, he overruled one of his priests and allowed a gay Catholic to serve on a parish council.
- Peter Erdo, 61, Hungary
Erdo is the archbishop of Budapest and heads the Conference of Bishops for Europe.
- Angelo Bagnasco, 70, Italy
Bagnasco is the archbishop of Genoa. He became a target of threats from gay-rights activists after he condemned same-sex unions in 2007.
LATIN AMERICA (41 percent of world's Catholic population)
- Joao Braz de Aviz, 65, Brazil
Braz de Aviz heads the Vatican's department for religious congregations. He became a cardinal in 2012.
- Leonardo Sandri, 69, Argentina
Sandri was the chief of staff at the Vatican for seven years until 2007. He currently heads the Vatican's department for eastern churches.
- Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, Brazil
Scherer is the archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil, the largest diocese in the largest Catholic country. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2007.
NORTH AMERICA (7 percent of world's Catholic population)
- Marc Ouellet, 68, Canada
Ouellet is the head of the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican. In 2011, he was quoted as saying that becoming a pope "would be a nightmare."
- Timothy Dolan, 62, United States
Dolan is the American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, and the current archbishop of New York. In 2012, TIME magazine named Dolan one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."
AFRICA (15 percent of world's Catholic population)
- Peter Turkson, 64, Ghana
Turkson is the head of Vatican's Justice and Peace council. Last year, he caused an uproar at the Vatican by screening a YouTube video that made predictions about the growth of Islam in Europe.
ASIA (12 percent of world's Catholic population)
- Luis Tagle, 55, Philippines
Tagle is the archbishop of Manila. He is one of the youngest members of the college of cardinals and is known for his charismatic nature.