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Bookies reckon next pope could be from Africa

Betting begins after Benedict XVI says will resign

12 February, 16:47
Bookies reckon next pope could be from Africa

(ANSA) - Rome - Odds are that the next head of the Catholic Church will be African, according to bookmakers who began laying wagers immediately after Pope Benedict XVI resigned.

The pope's resignation announcement stunned the world and triggered a flurry of rumours and speculation about who will replace the pontiff, who is stepping down on February 28.

With his replacement not likely to be selected until the end of March, bookies, politicians, and Vatican watchers will have plenty of time to weigh candidates.

But as the Catholic Church rises in size and power in Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America, pressure is also increasing for a non-European pope to be selected by the church's cardinals, who will meet in conclave in mid-March.

That helps explain why online betting agency Agimeg says that the next pope could be Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, 80, and in second place Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, 64. Arinze, known as a scholarly conservative, came to Rome to study theology at the Pontifical Urban University, where he ultimately earned a doctorate in sacred theology summa cum laude.

But at popular Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power Plc, Turkson of Ghana is the favorite at odds of 9-4 to replace Pope Benedict, and Arinze is in third place at 3-1.

Turkson, who lives in Rome and speaks numerous languages, was educated in the United States, attending St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in theology.

Turkson was appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace by Pope Benedict in 2009.

Canada's Marc Ouellet, 68, is second favorite at 5-2, according to Paddy Power.

However, his election seems less likely.

Ouellet, who became a cardinal in 2003, was quoted in June 2011 as suggesting he would have no interest in the Pope's job because its intensely heavy workload "would be a nightmare" with crushing responsibilities.

"It's the kind of thing you don't campaign for".

Bookies have named Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola as the European favourite to succeed Benedict, followed by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops' Conference.

The name to be chosen by the next pope is also subject for wagering, with Peter in the lead, followed by Pius, John Paul, John, and Benedict.

photo: Turkson

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