Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
The United States just finished a diversity election that saw a president elected not by old, white men but by Latinos, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement, the Roman Catholic Church is preparing for an election of its own. Though in this case, the election will be decided not by rank-and-file Catholics but by the College of Cardinals.
It is well known that the demographics of the Catholic Church are changing quickly. Membership is hemorrhaging in Europe and barely stable in the United States, but it is booming in Asia and Africa and Latin America, which together account for two-thirds of the world’s Catholics.
In recent years, the papacy has seen some demographic milestones, as the College of Cardinals moved beyond Italy to tap popes from Poland (John Paul II) and Germany (Benedict XVI). There is now some speculation that an American might be considered, namely Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
But the church could take a much bolder step, tapping a pontiff that represents its future in the "Global South" rather than its past in the "Global North."
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – With Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation on Monday, the leaders of the Catholic Church will soon meet to select the next person to lead the ever-changing church.
While it is likely that they will pick another voting member of the College of Cardinals - the 118 Catholic leaders younger than 80 will vote on who should lead the church - the standards for who can become pope are remarkably loose.
Any baptized man in good standing could be elected pope, according to canon law, a group of laws that guide the Catholic hierarchy. Women cannot be named pope because they are unable to become ordained priests in Catholicism.
So if the only standard is a baptized man in good standing with the church, there are millions of possible papal successors – including Speaker of the House John Boehner, rock star Bono and, yes, comedian Stephen Colbert.
By Brandon Griggs, CNN
Assuming Pope Benedict XVI steps down as planned at the end of February, his tenure on Twitter will have been fleeting.
The pope has been active on the social-media platform for only two months. During that time he has sent just 34 tweets - 33 if you don't count one that corrected a typo in a previous message.
The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics stunned the world Monday with the news that he will resign February 28 "because of advanced age."
Most of the pope's messages to his 1.5 million followers have promoted Catholic doctrine and teachings, although he has also occasionally commented on current events, condemning violence in Nigeria and Syria. One tweet asked followers for suggestions on how to be more prayerful when "we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?"
The first Catholic pope to use Twitter, he tweets under the handle @Pontifex - meaning "bridge builder" in Latin.
Editor's note: Paul Donovan is a lifelong Catholic and a commentator, writer and broadcaster who has contributed to The Guardian, Tablet, Universe, Irish Post and Independent Catholic News.
By Paul Donovan, Special to CNN
(CNN) – The announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a bolt from the blue to the world but not a moment too soon for many Catholics.
The Catholic Church has continued to march backwards under Pope Benedict, seeming at times to be in a state of perpetual denial, whether the issue be that of child abuse, birth control, homosexuality or the role of women.
At the heart of the church there lies a deep chauvinism that seems to have infected the whole edifice.
Women may feel discriminated against in many institutions but few have made it so blatantly clear that the woman's place remains at the kitchen sink as the Catholic Church.
The refusal to enter into a constructive dialogue about the possibility of having female clergy underlines just how male dominated the institution remains.
By Greg Botelho, CNN
(CNN) - Before he was Pope Benedict XVI, before he earned the nickname "Cardinal No" as the enforcer of church doctrine, he was Joseph Ratzinger - the son of Maria and police officer Joseph Ratzinger, learning about life and God in Germany between two world wars.
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, Benedict is not only the church's leader but God's representative on earth and infallible.
He is also a man - one who savors his meat and potatoes, an accomplished pianist who loves Mozart, and a teacher who for years commanded university classes. His humanity became apparent Monday, when the Vatican announced he'd resign at month's end "because of advanced age," becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to do so.
By Mark Thompson,CNNMoney
London (CNNMoney) - Pope Benedict made cleaning up the Vatican's reputation for shady money one of his priorities, beefing up the city-state's laws and hiring a top Swiss financial crime fighter to raise standards to international levels.
Independent experts say much progress has been made in a short period of time. But the Pope resigns with the Vatican still falling well short of its goal of inclusion on a "white list" of states and embroiled in an embarrassing row with the Bank of Italy.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.