Odds-on favorites for the next Holy Father? Place your virtual marker here!

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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With only a few days to go before Pope Benedict XVI steps down, handicapping the conclave that will elect his successor is progressing in earnest. Irish betting site PaddyPower (Google it yourself!) is giving Tarcisio Bertone 4 to 1 odds (which chills my heart, since he was Ratzinger's secretary at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and I don't think we need two in a row!). Ghana's Peter Turkson is at 11 to 4, though his profile in the media may hurt his chances. Here in Boston we are being treated with speculation that the city's Cardinal Sean O'Malley is a contender, but I don't think he has a snowball's chance in Cambridge, partially because he is too associated with the sex abuse crisis, even if he is more on the reforming side of things.

While I've lit my candle for Manila's Cardinal Luis Tagle, at a mere 55 years of age, he's probably too young for the conclave to gamble on him. (I fear he may also be too Asian in a conclave still dominated by Europeans.) Turkson might also be a winning choice--but Paddy Power has inexplicably promised to give back any money wagered in the papal sweepstakes if a "black pope" is elected. A couple of South Americans may be in the running, one of Italian parentage, which may help his chances.

The smart money is probably on an Italian with a big BUT: There is no doubt that Benedict is resigning on the heels of the "Vatileaks" scandal, and there is a confidential report on the incident (prepared by three cardinals over 80) that is doubtlessly full of all kinds of really juicy corruption. (The Italian media is gleefully suggesting the possibility of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, including the claims that some cardinals are being blackmailed by some to whom they have "worldly" attachments, though I think it's probably related more to money than sex.) Regardless of the details, the trouble is in the Curia (where it almost always is), and for some reason I doubt that the diocesan cardinals would be willing to make a curial insider the next pope. In fact, if they do, they should have their heads examined.

All of which means I am striking cardinals such as Sodano and Bertone from my list, two prominent Italian candidates, though it looks like Scola is the Italian leader. I think I'm going with Gianfranco Ravasi, because he seems like a nice, smiley Italian who happens to share my birthday. And right now I think the church needs a nice, smiley Italian. When he resigns in 10 years, it will be time for Tagle.

Comments are open: Who do you think will succeed B16?