The deliberations leading to the election of a new pope are shrouded in secrecy. And while the outcome is highly uncertain, bookmakers are giving revealing odds on the most likely candidates for the Catholic Church's top job.
As soon as Pope Benedict XVI announced he was resigning at the end of February, British bookmakers were giving betting odds on his possible successor.
There are 118 eligible members of the College of Cardinals who can attend the Papal Conclave in March to choose the next Bishop of Rome from among their numbers.
And while some predictions have been accurate – Joseph Ratzinger was widely tipped by bookmakers in 2005 – no-one anticipated his predecessor Karol Wojtyla’s surprise election in 1978.
The outcome will remain shrouded in mystery until the cardinals signal that they have come to a decision, which have often been big surprises. The Vaticanologists’ maxim is “he who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves as a cardinal” - meaning the most obvious candidate is rarely chosen.
Some likely candidates (bookies’ odds from Tuesday, February 12):
Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 64
The bookies’ favourite with Paddy Power giving him 3/1, Turkson is head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and is considered a progressive candidate. Turkson has said that "If God would wish to see a black man also as pope, thanks be to God". ©AFP
Angelo Scola, 71
Scola is Archbishop of Milan, a position held by two of his 20th century predecessors. He is considered by many to be Benedict XVI’s right-hand man and is rumoured to be the current Pope’s chosen successor. Ladbrookes gives him odds of 7/1. ©AFP
Francis Arinze, 80
At 80 years old, Arinze still qualifies to be a member of the College of Cardinals. Known for his sense of humour and frankness, the Nigerian is another bookies' favourite (Ladbrookes 5/1) and was seen as a potential successor to John Paul II in the 2005 conclave. ©AFP
Leonardo Sandri, 69
Argentinian Sandri is head of the Vatican's office for Eastern rite churches. He earned fame as the "voice" of Pope John Paul II when the pontiff lost the ability to speak because of Parkinson's Disease. The bookies give him 7/1. ©AFP
Marc Ouellet, 68
Ouellet, a Canadian from French-speaking Quebec, is fluent in French, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German. Ladbrookes gives the current head of the Congregation for Bishops 3/1 odds, making him one of the strongest candidates to the betting public. ©AFP
Tarcisio Bertone, 78 (left)
As the Vatican’s secretary of state, Bertone will be the man responsible for the Catholic Church between the pope’s resignation and the election of a new pontiff. Bertone, who gets odds of 16/1, has proposed universal free access to anti-AIDS drugs. ©AFP
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
Maradiaga was made bishop at the age of 36 and is considered to be left of other more conservative candidates. President of Caritas International, the Honduran is a staunch defender of human rights and is known for helping the poor. Paddy Power gives him 7/1. ©AFP
Date created : 2013-02-12