Pope John Paul II's pontificate reaches 25 years on Oct. 16, putting it just short of the third-longest in history.
The Vatican lists the pontificate of St. Peter, the first pope, as the longest. It says he served from A.D. 30 to 64 or 67, for a total of 34 or 37 years.
Next is Pope Pius IX, pope from 1846 to 1878, for a total of 31 years, seven months and 17 days. Leo XIII is third, serving from 1878 to 1903, or 25 years, four months and 17 days.
Europeans dominate possible successors for pope
The man elected pope by his fellow cardinals is often a surprise, but here are the names most often mentioned as successors to John Paul II:
-Dionigi Tettamanzi, 69, archbishop of Milan, Italy. Considered moderate. Viewed as attractive candidate for those seeking Italian pope.
-Angelo Sodano, 75, Vatican's secretary of state, No. 2 in church hierarchy after pope. An Italian, speaks several languages. Taken on increasingly visible role under weakening John Paul. Could be favorite of those seeking transitional figure.
-Giovanni Battista Re, 69, Italian who heads powerful Congregation for Bishops, in charge of bishops around world.
-Angelo Scola, 61, patriarch of Venice, Italy, seen as possible surprise. Among 30 new cardinals to be installed by John Paul on Oct. 22. Formerly rector of Lateran University, considered conservative. Three 20th century popes came from Venice post.
-Christoph Schoenborn, 58, archbishop of Vienna, Austria. Multilingual, polished, highly educated. Relative youth could be handicap, since electors might hesitate over long pontificate.
-Godfried Danneels, 70, Belgian archbishop. Leading voice in European church, moderate who has called for more democracy in Catholic Church.
-Francis Arinze, 70, Vatican-based Nigerian, mentioned in speculation about pope from Africa, important area of growth for church. Prefect of Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, which reviews liturgical texts.
-Claudio Hummes, 69, archbishop of important post of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Considered progressive on social issues, conservative on doctrine.
-Norberto Rivera Carrera, 61, archbishop of Mexico City and important voice in Latin America. Progressive on social issues while doctrinal conservative.
-Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 60, cardinal from Honduras, considered rising star in Latin American church. Multilingual, polished, outspoken on social issues. Relative youth is drawback.