A "wave of emotion" over the death of John Paul II speeded Benedict XVI's election, she said, something that cannot be matched for someone who is simply retiring at the age of 85.
When they gather for the conclave in mid-March, the cardinals will be under pressure to choose a reformer, someone to fix the "central machinery" of the Curia, said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert and staunch supporter of Benedict who writes for the Italian weekly L'Espresso.
"A great majority are in favour of a strong leader with a strong public presence and a capacity to govern," Magister told AFP, noting that cardinals outside the Curia - most of them bishops in overseas dioceses - "will weigh very heavily in favour of reform".
The 28 Italian cardinals are not the "compact group" that they once were, he added.
What is more, Benedict reinstated an old rule requiring a two-thirds majority to elect the next pope - or 78 of the 117 possible this time.
South African cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, who is among the handful dubbed "papabile" or possible successors, said the Church was in a state of "profound crisis" and needed a new pope to bring about "spiritual renewal".
"The determining factor is he must have the wisdom and energy to confront the challenges that await the Church in every corner of the globe," he told Italian daily La Stampa.
"Church institutions should help evangelisation, not slow it down," he said. "People, and young people in particular, are waiting for words of truth from the Church."
Magister, like many Vatican watchers, dismissed the chances of an African or Latin American rising to the top, predicting that the race would come down to Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, 72, versus Marc Ouellet, the 67-year-old former archbishop of Quebec who heads the influential Congregation of Bishops.