Much of the world's punditry is focussed on "where" in the world the next Pope is to come from. I am a big fan of the idea that the Pope should be elected based upon holiness and suitability to the needs of the time; but I also think that where someone is from and suitability are not entirely unrelated.
While Conclaves can be somewhat of a surprise, and a dark horse candidate can emerge after much indecision, I think that an American-- or anyone from a particular church that is newly evangelized, for that matter-- simply has no real chance of being Pope.
The reason for this follows upon my last post, on the "scandal" of abdication: It is simply that new world countries, although where Catholicism may be on the rise, do not really have a concept of Catholicism, and the monarchy that comes with it, that goes to their bones.
That is not to say that the Cardinals from new world countries aren't good, holy, devout men who would not make good popes. On the contrary, it is simply because the culture from which they come has Catholicism added on to it; either as an afterthought, or alongside of any number of other good options for filling the religious vacuum in a culture. And to have Catholicism in your bones is an important thing for a Pope.
In Europe, Catholicism built the culture. It is so engrained into the DNA of a European that they can't escape it-- and incidentally, why there is such a violent reaction against it in the secular movement.
Europe, although trying to tear away the last vestiges of it, is also a society that is built upon the aristocratic system that comes with monarchy; a system that is even mirrored in the Church with the College of Cardinals. In this light, it should not be surprising that there are European Cardinals that come from aristocratic families.
An evangelized culture will always have that tension between the culture it lives within, and the culture of the Church. It becomes a sub-culture, as it were. While this is also capable of being true in an historically Catholic culture, more importantly, the remains of old Catholic culture are still present, be it in the organization of cities around parishes, or Corpus Christi still being a holiday with a procession and feast, etc. Catholic cultures live Catholicism; whereas evangelized cultures can only strive for this as an ideal.
This contrast between old and new, a Catholic Culture and an Evangelized Culture, is why at least it is more suitable for there to be a European Pope-- one who can be seen to be relatable to all cultures, not simply a particular culture.
The Conclave will no doubt be an exciting one-- there is no apparent future leader of the Church that sticks out-- ironically, perhaps because Ratzinger is still in relatively good health and not in need of that sort of assistance that enabled himself to become a papal contender in 2005.
I personally think that it depends upon how long the Conclave lasts. If it concludes relatively quickly, say, in the first 3 days, I think that it will go to an Italian. Scola is a front-runner, but I think Bagnasco has a good chance, as well.
If it goes longer, look for the Pope to come from the Curia or greater Europe. Only if the Conclave moves beyond a week, to, say 1 to 2 weeks, will the Pope have any chance of coming from outside of Europe.
I could be very wrong, but if this sort of prediction is correct, then perhaps Canizares Llovera is papabile.
If there were any North American contenders, I would guess that Levada, Oullet, or Burke are the only ones who have a chance at all-- and that is because they would have come from the Curia, and have come to know and live the Roman custom of things. They would have their best chances in the 3 days- 1 week timeframe.
Some people would say Dolan has a good chance-- perhaps the best of any American. He has a good record as rector of the NAC, he gave the address to the College of Cardinals last year at the Holy Father's choosing, etc. However, I am not inclined to think that Dolan will be the guy. As president of the USCCB, he represents the American Church, with all of its plusses and minuses. At the end of the day, as admired as many things are about American Catholicism, it is still looked down upon with disdain by many in Europe as that new kid on the block still struggling to belong-- this would be an impediment to the universality needed by a pope.
While we're at it, I'll go on record to say Bertone doesn't have a chance.
Outside of the one week time frame, it is anyone's guess and all I have said to this point would no longer be applicable; but perhaps Pell, or, if we are really playing fantasy league here, Ranjith wouldn't be a bad pick at all-- but I do think that this would be not unlike the pick of JPii; the Cardinals would, after a week or two, be looking to find someone they all can agree on and get it over with, and so would then be willing to entertain some ideas that are outside of the box.
All of that analysis given, I say that the head of the Church of Rome should be from Rome, or at least an Italian. Bagnasco for the win. (Pius XIII or Leo XIV, anyone?)