Until recently, American candidates faced unease about US hegemony. With the end of the cold war and decline in American power, a couple of US cardinals are getting serious attention.
Issues of governance at the Vatican are weighing on the men who will pick the next leader of the Catholic Church.
Paolo Gabriele, the pope's former major-domo, was convicted of leaking confidential documents. The Pope pardoned him after a meeting at the Vatican jail.
Claudio Sciarpelletti, an IT technician, is expected to come off with a light sentence. Many Vatican watchers say both men could be pawns in a palace power struggle.
Paolo Gabriele, the once-trusted valet who used to dress the 85-year-old German pontiff, is charged under Vatican law with the 'aggravated theft' of confidential papers.
Pope Benedict's former butler will be tried on an aggravated theft charge over leaking documents claiming corruption in the Vatican. There is also a computer expert charged with involvement in the case.