Tomorrow the cardinals go into their conclave and before the week is out, we should know the identity of the new pope. Who will it be? Well, I don't know. But the candidate the cardinals choose will tell us something about what they see as the priorities and major challenges to the church.
If they pick a European liberal, then they will see secularism as the biggest obstacle and will be trying to re-engage a Europe that has lost interest in serious faith. Before the child abuse scandals, an American might have done as well but that is now too dangerous a choice. If the cardinals decide that the evangelisation of the Third World is their top priority then expect a South American. Likewise, if poverty is top of the list, a third world crusader for the poor is the most likely outcome. Finally, if they decide the maintenance of sound doctrine is important then a figure like Ratzinger might have a chance, but frankly, I doubt it. Whoever the successful candidate is, he will also have to be a good administrator who is willing to knock the Curia into shape and engage in areas where John Paul had no interest (for instance the liturgy).
My prediction: Cardinal Hummes of Sao Paulo covers the most bases. I think a Vatican insider is unlikely and I also think that the cardinals will be keen to appoint a non-European. Still, more likely is someone we have not heard of who the Holy Spirit has already decided on. Ideally, the Cardinals should keep their own thoughts at the back of their minds and stay open to the direction from God.