The unexpected news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign next week because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office shocked the world.
The German pope announced his decision during a meeting of Vatican cardinals several days ago.
Already the attention and speculation is turning to who will replace the ailing pope to perform his mammoth task.
Three Canadian cardinals will be part of the conclave to elect a new pope, and one of them is considered a leading contender to take over after the pope steps down Feb. 28.
It is expected the new pope will assume his duties before Easter.
The selection of a Canadian as pontiff would be unprecedented.
A non-European cardinal has never been chosen to lead the church.
The Canadians involved in the decision-making process are Cardinal Thomas Collins from Toronto, and Cardinals Jean-Claude Turcotte and Marc Ouellet, both from Quebec.
The favourite Canadian for the top post is Cardinal Ouellet.
Cardinal Ouellet is the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.
He was elected president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1997 to 1999.
However, my bet is this time the pope will come from Africa.
The frontrunner is Cardinal Peter Kodwo Applah Turkson, 64, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
He is originally from Ghana, West Africa.
Of course, there are others from Africa including Cardinal Francis Arinze, 80, of Nigeria.
But, he is too old for the job.
Having an African pontiff for the first time in 1,500 years would send a solid signal to the world about the universally of the church.
Don’t tell this is not possible.
Before Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States, many skeptics said this would never happen.
It is quite possible an African can become the first black pope.
Cardinal Turkson is a great communicator.
Apart from potential contenders from Canada and Africa, there are many others from Latin America, Europe and the Americas who can assume the role of the pope.
Pope Benedict cast himself as the reluctant pope, a sky bookworm who preferred solitary walks in the Alps to the public glare and the majesty of Vatican pageantry.
The father of the world’s billion Roman Catholics is retiring.
He is the first pontiff to do so since 1415.
The German theologian, whose mission was to reawaken Christianity, has grown increasingly frail in recent years.
He has had to face many colossal problems including a sex abuse scandal.
This was the church’s biggest crisis in years.
The 85-year-old pope said carrying out the duties of the pope required both strength and the body.
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
The Vatican has stressed the pope was not stepping down because of any specific illness.
The pope’s brother George Ratzinger said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months.