These are some of the names to look out for in the future of the Roman Catholic Church. Any one of these men might be a future pope, but all of them will have an influence one way or another on the way the Church will go. We have listed them in alphabetical order.

Francis Arinze (Nigerian, 73)

Arinze is a popular African candidate for pope. He is an Ibo, was baptised a Catholic when he was nine and was sent to an Irish missionary school. He was ordained in 1958, and in 1967, when the Nigerian civil war was at its height, he was appointed the first black archbishop of Onitsha. Arinze was president of the Nigerian bishops conference in the early 1980s and he was made a cardinal in 1985. He has worked in the Vatican curia for many years, first on the pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue and then as head of the congregation of divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments. He is well-known in Rome and has direct experience of relations between Christians and Muslims.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. (Argentinian, 69)

Born in Buenos Aires of Italian parents, Bergoglio became a Jesuit in 1969 and then the societys provincial for Argentina four years later when he was in his mid-30s, a position that he held for five years under the ferocious military dictatorship. After that, he spent the 1980s far from the limelight in Cordoba and was not recalled to Buenos Aires until the early 1990s when he was ordained bishop. In 1998 he became archbishop of Buenos Aires and was made a cardinal three years later. He is extremely popular among both the clergy and the laity and is known in the Vatican curia. However Jesuits are not usually favoured as popes.

Tarcisio Bertone (Italian, 70)

Bertone, a Salesian, has a good academic career and is a specialist in canon law. Appointed archbishop of Vercelli (Piedmont) in 1991, he has a long record in the Vatican curia, in particular as secretary of the power house of doctrinal discipline, the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. He was appointed archbishop of Genoa in 2003 and was made a cardinal in the same year. He has made headlines recently by attacking Dan Browns best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Ivan Dias (Indian, 69)

Born in Bombay, of Portuguese extraction, Dias has followed a diplomatic career with experience in several African and south-east Asian countries but most notably as apostolic nuncio in post-communist Albania, where he was responsible for rebuilding the Catholic Church. A spiritual disciple of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he speaks 16 languages. He was installed as archbishop of his native city in 1997 and became a cardinal in 2001. He has extensive pastoral experience but his period in Albania was not popular with Albanians.

Roger Etchegaray (French, 82)

Etchegaray is not a voting cardinal, but he combines extensive pastoral experience with a noteworthy record in Rome. He became auxiliary bishop of Paris in 1969, archbishop of Marseilles the following year and a cardinal in 1979. He worked extensively with the European bishops conference in the 1970s but first became well known outside ecclesiastical circles for his handling of the millennium jubilee events. He was a special envoy for John Paul II on many delicate missions in the Middle East in 2002 to end the stand-off between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the Church of the Nativity and in 2003 to Saddam Hussein to plea for peace. He has recently returned from China and his book entitled Verso i Cristiani in Cina. Visti da una rana dal fondo di un pozzo has just been published.

Cludio Hummes (Brazilian, 70)

Hummes is a Franciscan with a good track record in ecumenism. From 1972 to 1975 he was the orders provincial of Rio Grande do Sul and then president of the union of Latin American conferences of Franciscans. He caught the imagination of the media in 1975 when, as bishop of Santo Andre, he let factory workers and unionists use church facilities for political meetings during Brazils military dictatorship. He is a critic of the United States-backed free-market policies adopted in much of Latin America. He became archbishop of Fortaleza in 1996, then of So Paulo in 1998, and was made a cardinal in 2001.

Walter Kasper (German, 72)

Kasper is a top-notch theologian who is much admired in Rome, in particular for his work promoting ecumenical relations. He was made a cardinal in 2001 and in the same year became president of the pontifical council for promoting Christian unity. As president of the council, Kasper is also the president of the commission for religious relations with the Jews.

Carlo Maria Martini, S.J. (Italian, 78)

Martini is a much-loved Jesuit and a highly respected academic. He was an enormously popular archbishop of Milan from 1979 until his retirement in 2002. He is also a darling of the Italian and international media. He is not in good health and now spends much of his time studying in Jerusalem but still returns to Rome to lecture and give spiritual guidance.

Joseph Ratzinger (German, 77)

The arch-disciplinarian guardian of the Catholic Churchs congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Ratzinger has been one of John Paul IIs key advisers in recent years. He played a vital role during the last months of the late popes illness and led his funeral Mass on 8 April. He has been dean of the college of cardinals since 2002 and it was his job to convene the conclave. He is not popular among many theologians and he upset other Christian denominations in the middle of the millennium jubilee year 2000 with the document Dominus Jesus on the uniqueness of Christ and his Church.

Giovanni Battista Re (Italian, 71)

Re, who comes from north Italy and who studied canon law at the Gregorian University, is considered a powerful man in the Vatican thanks to his position as prefect of the congregation of bishops. He was appointed president of the pontifical commission for Latin America by Pope John Paul II although his grass-roots experience of the region is limited. He stood in for the late pope in the Chrism Mass this Easter, which was considered a lift for his career. He has virtually no pastoral experience.

Camillo Ruini (Italian, 74)

Vicar general of the Rome diocese and president of the Italian bishops conference since 1991, the 74-year-old from Sassuolo (Emilia Romagna) has been the voice of the Church in dialogue with the Italian institutions, particularly in regard to issues such as the family and bioethics. He became a cardinal in 1991.

Angelo Sodano (Italian, 77)

A curia man through and through, Sodano was secretary of state in the last three years of John Paul IIs papacy and, along with Ratzinger, was considered one of the most powerful men in the Vatican. He spent most of his diplomatic career in South America but is remembered in present-day Chile for his equivocal approach under the military dictatorship of General Pinochet and in Argentina for his unpopular handling of diplomatic events during the Falklands / Malvinas war in 1982.

Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italian, 71)

Born near Milan, Tettamanzi has extensive pastoral experience as archbishop of Genoa (1995-2002) and Milan, a position he still holds. He has also been general secretary and then vice president of the Italian bishops conference. Made a cardinal in 1998, he is respected in Italian ecclesiastical circles.

Four other much younger cardinals will also have a major part to play in the future of the Church:

Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexican, 62). He has given a vital lead on numerous social issues since becoming archbishop of Mexico City in 1995. Made a cardinal at only 57, he hosted the late popes visit to Mexico in 1999.

Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduran, 62). A Salesian, who studied theology and psychology in Italy and Austria, he became archbishop of Tegucigalpa in 1993 and was made a cardinal in 2001.

Christoph Schnborn (Austrian, 60). A Dominican, born in what is now the Czech Republic, he is a much respected theologian who is expert in Eastern Christian theology. He became archbishop of Vienna in 1995 and a cardinal in 1998. He gave the Lenten spiritual exercises for the late pope and the Vatican curia in 1995, an honour reserved for the very best.

Angelo Scola (Italian, 63). Scola is actively involved in Communion and Liberation, the popular Italian movement, which was much admired by the late pope. He has a good academic background and since 2002 has been patriarch of Venice, a traditional spring-board for the papacy. He was made a cardinal in 2003.