The Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was chosen Wednesday as the new pontiff to lead 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, taking the name Pope Francis. His election puts a halt to the fevered speculation and outright betting surrounding who would become the next pope.
The balloting inside the Sistine Chapel is not revealed to the outside world, but here are some of the other figures who were eyed in the media as possible candidates for pope:
Angelo Scola: Scola, 71, was considered a leading candidate to assume the throne of St. Peter from the moment Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire. One of the senior Italians in the church hierarchy, Scola serves as archbishop of Milan, Italy's largest diocese, and former patriarch of Venice. One of his primary interests has been understanding between Christianity and Islam, dialogue he promotes through a foundation, Oasis, that he set up while in Venice, historically a meeting place between East and West.
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Peter Turkson: Turkson, 64, would have been the first African pope to lead the church in about 1,500 years. He heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and is widely credited for helping Ghana avoid violence in the wake of a bitterly contested election. He has taken a conservative line on contraception and homosexuality, and set off an uproar last year at a meeting of bishops by screening a video about the spread of Islam in Europe, which was denounced for spurious statistics.
Gianfranco Ravasi: Ravasi, 70, impressed some Vatican watchers with his engagement of atheists and agnostics and with his communications savvy. As Vatican culture czar, he has kept a blog, frequently updated his Facebook page and tweeted with alacrity. Ravasi has tried to boost the church's profile in the worlds of art and science, especially through an unusual project called "Courtyard of the Gentiles," which brings together the devout and the spiritually indifferent in cultural events throughout Europe.
Marc Ouellet: Ouellet, a Canadian, oversees the Vatican department that vets potential bishops. His reputation in his native Canada has been mixed. Although the 68-year-old embodies the conservatism of Benedict and the late Pope John Paul II, who made him a cardinal, Ouellet's hard-line views on hot-button social issues such as the church's stance against same-sex marriage have alienated many in liberal Quebec. However, his conservatism has endeared him to some prelates in Latin America.
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Peter Erdo: Erdo, 60, is the president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. In that capacity, he has coordinated projects that span Europe and the developing world. Erdo, a scholar and intellectual, is linked to more than 250 articles and 25 books on canon law and its medieval history. Erdo has challenged how Christianity is portrayed. Last year, the Hungarian cardinal criticized the media for “a presentation of the Christian faith and history that is full of lies, misinforming the public as to the content of our faith as well as to what makes up the reality of the Church.”
Yet Erdo has also suggested that the church could reach out and have “dialogue with the natural and historical sciences,” declaring in a separate speech that “the natural sciences -- physics, astronomy -- show us the elasticity and richness of basic concepts like matter or energy. They prompt questions about the beginning and end of the universe,” Catholic News Service reported.
Odilo Pedro Scherer: A Brazilian of German descent, Scherer serves as archbishop of Sao Paulo, the biggest Catholic diocese in the world's most populous Catholic country. In that role, 63-year-old Scherer has criticized the theatrics of charismatic Catholic churches, where believers speak in tongues and worship to contemporary music, but has lauded their desire to win back the faithful as the Brazilian church is challenged by evangelical Protestantism.
Scherer has also toed the Vatican line in condemning liberation theology, the left-wing, Marxist-tinged movement to empower the poor that spread throughout Latin America in the 1980s. He has staunchly opposed attempts to liberalize Brazilian abortion laws, Catholic News Service reported.
Joao Braz de Aviz: Braz de Aviz, 65, is known as a centrist within the church. The Brazilian has braved battles both real and metaphorical: He still carries fragments of bullets in his body from when he was shot as a young priest, caught in the crossfire during an car robbery, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Two years ago, he took over the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, an assignment that “in some ways resembled a battleground,” Catholic News Service wrote. His predecessor had criticized Catholic orders for adapting too much to modern life and faulted those with a “feminist” spirit. Braz de Aviz was credited with calming the waters, but that same tack left him open to criticisms that he sent mixed signals with respect to orthodoxy and obedience, the National Catholic Reporter wrote.
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