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- Barney Zwartz's analysis: brave decision
- A sign from above? Lightning strikes Vatican
- Read the Pope's full statement in English and Latin
- How the new Pope will be chosen
- Latin helps reporter get the scoop
- Jane Cadzow on George Pell: our man in Rome
- Twitter reacts to Pope's resignation
- Time to modernise? Vote here
The world is waiting for a new pope, but Australia may be waiting a while longer for a local to take the top job at the Vatican.
Could the new Pope come from outside Europe?
Religion writer Barney Zwartz looks at a few of the top contenders outside of Europe to be considered for the head of the Catholic church.
Global commentators and even betting markets put the chances of Archbishop of Sydney George Pell as slim at best, with African and European candidates preferred.
Father Robert Sirico, a noted American Catholic commentator and a master of divinity, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, from Canada, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, were possible, "or even Cardinal George Pell from Australia".
Father Sirico also urged caution over the suggestion of there being frontrunners at this early stage.
"Anyone who tells you there is a 'frontrunner' simply does not know what he is talking about. The ripening period for papabili [a potential candidate] to emerge has just begun," he wrote in the National Review Online.
At 60, Cardinal Ouellet was the equal-youngest candidate for the papal vacancy in 2005 when Pope John Paul II died. The other 60-year-old was Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna.
In 2010, asked about his papal chances upon being appointed as prefect of the church's Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Ouellet said: "I don't think that I will become a pope someday, I don't think so ... [it] would be a nightmare".
He also spoke of the duties being "perhaps not very enviable" and described the responsibilities as "crushing".
"It is a very heavy responsibility. Nobody campaigns for that."
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In the same year, Cardinal Ouellet said terminating a pregnancy, even in cases of rape, was a "moral crime". He later clarified that he did not condemn women who resort to abortion.
There is also plenty of speculation that the next pope could be African. Cardinal Peter Turkson, from Ghana, and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria have been named as contenders.
Cardinal Turkson, 64, is adored by colleagues and has regular television appearances on state television.
"We love him," metropolitan archbishop of Accra Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle told the Guardian.
"For Ghanaians he was our first cardinal, and to be made cardinal in his 50s was a big feather in our cap. Since then he has shown himself to be a church leader and a young cardinal breaking new ground."
Cardinal Turkson has also experienced controversy: last year, at a meeting of international bishops, he screened an alarmist YouTube clip that predicted huge growth in Islam's European influence.
Cardinal Arinze, 80, praised as a great communicator, was in 2003 condemned for likening homosexuality to adultery and divorce.
British bookmakers rate Cardinal Turkson as a strong chance, with two putting his chances at 3-1. Cardinal Arinze's odds range from 4-1 to 9-2 and Cardinal Ouellet rated anywhere at 7-2.
Cardinal Pell, meanwhile, is well back in the bookmakers' fields. Betting agency William Hill does not have him listed, instead reporting that other candidates' odds are available on request, while another, Paddy Power, lists Cardinal Pell at 50-1 odds.
Encouragingly for Cardinal Pell, he is well ahead of author Richard Dawkins, at 666-1 and U2 singer Bono, at 1000-1.