Will Vatican white smoke usher in the first black pope?

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Who will be the next Pope?

Credit:

Franco Origlia

With the surprise abdication of Roman Catholic pontiff Benedict XVI on Monday, discussions of candidates for succession are already coming to the fore — several prominent African cardinals among them. 

Ghana's Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, for example. The 64-year-old, currently head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is considered a "superstar in the College of Cardinals, a great communicator, and symbol of the global reach of the Church," wrote Business Insider

More from GlobalPost: How the Catholic Church elects a pope

Another name making waves is Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze. However, it isn't the first time his name has been floated — eight years ago, during deliberations that led to Benedict XVI's selection, Arinze was also the subject of papal buzz. When he retired from a Vatican post in 2008, however, Time magazine said he was likely "out of the running for the top job."

All bets are on, with Catholic nations like Ireland quick to conjecture. Paddy Power, the nation's top bookmaker, had a list of names deemed most “papabile" at the ready, according to IrishCentral, with the two African cardinals and Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo-Sri Lanka among the top five. 

The newly-abdicated pope, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, will not participate in the College of Cardinals' conclave for his successor, according to Catholic World Report.

The Cardinals-only event communicates to the world by smoke signal: white meaning someone has been chosen, and black meaning continued deliberation. 

[View the story "Pope Benedict XVI: Papa don't preach" on Storify]