Inside the Catholic Church, 75 is the normal age of retirement. In 2012, the pope will face an important decision: who will replace the American Cardinal William Levada as the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith?
Levada will celebrate his 50th anniversary in the priesthood this December 20th and has expressed his wishes to step down from his position as Prefect.
Benedict XVI has a special connection to this position, where he served for 24 years before being elected pope.
This congregation has taken on an important role in recent years for managing cases of sex abuse inside the Church. It's also assigned to help integrate Anglicans who wish to be in communion with Rome.
Vaticanists are watching closely as to who could be the next successor. Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli has said it could be Cardinal Angelo Amato, a former secretary of the department, but at 73 years old and being another Italian in a field of Prefects domanited by Italians, he believes the next Prefect could be from another country.
Other possible candidates include the German bishop Gerhardt Ludwig Muller, as well as Roland Minnerath, the bishop of Dijon, France. There is also the Spanish Jesuit Luis Ladaria and the Dominican American Joseph Augustin Di Noia, both of whom were Ratzinger collaborators inside the Doctrine of the Faith.
Whoever the new Prefect may be, he will be assigned to the task of protecting Catholic orthodoxy and promoting Faith.