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The bets are on for who will succeed Benedict XVI

AFP

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.

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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):

Possible pontiffs
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