Angelo Cardinal Scola, 71, Italy
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Scola was named the Archbishop of Milan in 2011, a prominent post in the Roman Catholic church.
"If we had to pick a frontrunner, it's him," Bunson said. "He first is a brilliant theologian and has the intellectual heft to be pope, which is crucial. He has the clear favor of Pope Benedict.
Milan and Venice together have produced five popes in the past century.
Scola is also committed to promoting an understanding across faiths.
He started the Oasis Foundation in 2004, which helps bridge a dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at George Mason University and an advisor to Pope Benedict XVI's Pontifical Council for the Laity, agreed that Scola will be considered papabili -- an Italian word for someone highly qualified for the papacy.
"It would not be surprise me if a Scola, or another great European mind also was determined to be what was needed for the times," she said.