The sudden exit of the Pope could affect the profile of his successor, in part because voting cardinals will have little time to strategise about who the next pontiff should be, reports The Wall Street Journal in The Australian.
A speedy decision is likely to favour a compromise figure who is similar to Benedict XVI: a traditionalist in doctrine, but open to building bridges between the Vatican and the modern world.
The cardinals would look for "someone who has a combination of theological stances, but who also best addresses where we are seeing the church going today", said Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College in the US.
A main question facing the Papal conclave - the secretive meeting of Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope next month - is about style.
The cardinals are likely to debate whether to select a low-key gradualist or someone who will govern with grand gestures, such as John Paul II.
In recent conclaves, cardinals have been split between those who take a more conservative approach to the church's teaching and those open to changing the tenets of Catholicism.
While Pope Benedict has often been described as an arch-conservative because of his past role as an enforcer of church doctrine, he made reformist moves. Among them were his reorganisation of the Curia, the Vatican's administration, creating a division aimed at luring new faithful to the Catholic flock in emerging markets, amid dwindling church attendance in the West. He was the first pope on Twitter.
"The pontificate of Benedict has combined tradition and innovation. I don't believe that the conclave will break up this heritage," said Francesco Perfetti, professor of contemporary history at Luiss University.
At the previous papal conclave, in April 2005, cardinals had more time to prepare. The ailing former pontiff, John Paul II, had been widely expected for months to pass away.
FULL STORY Living Pope will colour cardinals (Australian)