In the Italian vernacular, the word "Papabili" — or "Pope-able" — refers to the cardinals and other prelates who are considered legitimate candidates for election as pope in an upcoming conclave.

Media reports have mentioned the following cardinals as possible successors to John Paul II (listed in alphabetical order):

Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigerian)

Born on Nov. 1, 1932, in Eziowelle, Nigeria.

Gained fame while ministering to refugees during the Biafra civil war in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Has worked for more than 20 years at the Vatican, where he has been a key figure in arranging interfaith dialogue among Catholics, Muslims and Hindus.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentinian), Archbishop of Buenos Aires

Born Dec. 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Known for his simple lifestyle. Chooses to live in an apartment rather than his luxurious palace next to the cathedral; does his own cooking and travels by bus.

Successfully managed the 2001 synod of bishops in Rome.

Belongs to the Jesuit order, which has never produced a pope.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (Colombian)

Born on July 4, 1929, in Medellin, Colombia.

As bishop, he took on both corruption among the police and Colombian drug cartels.

Heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, in charge of priests worldwide.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Belgian), Archbishop of Brussels

Born on June 4, 1933, in Kanegum, western Flanders.

In 1979, he became archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and president of the Belgium Episcopal Conference.

Represents the liberal wing of the church; suggested the Vatican could allow women to hold top posts and that condoms could be used against AIDS.

He is known for his writings in the Dictionary of the Liturgy.

Cardinal Ivan Dias (Indian), Archbishop of Bombay

Born April 14, 1936 in Bombay.

Spent his career as a Church diplomat in Scandinavia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Ghana, South Korea and Albania.

Is seen as a defender of conservative Vatican thinking.

Speaks Hindi, English, Italian, French and Spanish.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduran), Archbishop of Tegucigalpa

Born on Dec. 29, 1942 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

He is multilingual; with degrees in philosophy and theology, and a diploma in clinical psychology.

Has taught mathematics; is an accomplished pianist and pilot.

Considered less conservative than other Latin Americans elevated by John Paul II; served as president of the Federation of Latin American Bishops' Conferences.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Brazilian), Archbishop of Sao Paolo

Born Aug. 8, 1934 in Montenegro, Brazil.

Franciscan, born in Brazil of German parents.

While he has consistently defended the poor and criticized human rights abuses, he is also considered a theological conservative.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (German)

Born April 16, 1927 in Marktl am Inn, Germany.

Widely known as the Catholic church theological watchdog. Named head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the successor to the Inquisition, in 1981. Has been dean of the College of Cardinals since 2002.

A brilliant theologian, he has chased down many partisans of liberation theology and has made a number of enemies at the Vatican.

His advanced age is viewed as a plus, as it ensures a relatively short papacy.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn (Austrian), Archbishop of Vienna

Born Jan. 22, 1945, in Skalsko, Czech Republic.

A member of the Dominican order, he is considered an open, articulate theologian and communicator.

Stepped into a difficult situation in 1995 when he took over from Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who was accused of pedophilia.

His young age may be the principal obstacle to his candidacy.

Cardinal Angelo Scola (Italian), Patriarch of Venice

Born Nov. 7, 1941 in Malgrate, Italy.

Known as an efficient administrator; Venice has traditionally been considered a gateway into papacy.

Studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

Played a key role in drafting the pope's most recent encyclicals.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italian), Archbishop of Milan

Born on March 14, 1934, in Renate, Italy.

Close to Opus Dei, an organization of conservative Catholics.

Known for his strong communication skills and his writings on moral theology.

A born diplomat, he didn't hesitate to open dialogue with anti-globalization demonstrators during the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa.'s James DiLiberto contributed to this report.