Will the next Pope be Canadian? An Irish bookie firm thinks so. The favourite to wear the Shoes of the Fisherman and succeed Benny #16 is from Quebec - Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
An Irish betting house is now giving Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec the shortest odds, at least in the initial running, to replace Pope Benedict XVI.
The Paddy Power bookie firm said late Monday morning it will pay 5 euros should a bettor put 2 euros on the Quebec cardinal and the Canadian cleric is then chosen for the papal succession by the upcoming meeting of the College of Cardinals.
Bettors as well as believers will know soon — after a puff of white smoke is next released from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel.
That’s expected sometime in mid to late March.
Two others considered among the front-runners by Paddy Power, a large Dublin bookmaker, are currently listed only slightly behind Cardinal Ouellet.
They are Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.
Paddy Power lists both as 7-2, meaning a successful 2-euro bet in either case would pay off at 7 euros.
Ladbrokes, another gaming giant, has made Cardinal Turkson its front-runner, at 5-2, the same odds and potential payoff given by its Irish rival to the Quebec candidate.
Ladbrokes provides Cardinal Ouellet slightly longer odds, 3-1, thus anointing him its second-favourite papal prospect.
For that betting house, Cardinal Arinze is ranked No. 3. He’s been placed at 4-1.
In July 2010, Cardinal Ouellet, who is 68, became prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, the arm of the Vatican that makes bishop appointments around the world.
That triggered speculation that the multilingual churchman was increasingly well-positioned in the line of prospective papal succession — speculation which Cardinal Ouellet moved quickly at that time to try to quell:
“I’m surprised to be today in this position,” he told reporters at a Quebec City news conference before he relocated to his new, powerful position at the heart of the church, in Rome.
“And I don’t think that I will become a pope someday, I don’t think so,” Cardinal Ouellet added at the time.
To become pontiff, he told the Le Soleil newspaper in Quebec City in June 2011, “would be a nightmare.”
A pope’s duties, he added, “are perhaps not very enviable.”
And a pope’s responsibilities “are crushing,” he said.
A pope “has the help of the Holy Spirit, clearly,” Cardinal Ouellet said, “but it is a very heavy responsibility. Nobody campaigns for that.”
Cardinal Ouellet set off a firestorm of controversy in May 2010, telling an anti-abortion conference in Quebec City that terminating a pregnancy is a “moral crime,” even in cases where a woman has been raped.
His comments provoked harsh rebukes from several womens’ rights organizations — and also from Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois, who last September became Quebec’s first woman premier.
Cardinal Ouellet subsequently sought to “clarify” his statements.
He said that while he does not condone abortion, he does not condemn women who resort to it. The cardinal has also been an outspoken opponent of euthanasia, equating secular support in Quebec for abortion and euthanasia as a celebration of a “culture of death.”
Cardinal Ouellet, born in the Abitibi region, is said by John Allen, who writes from Rome for the U.S. National Catholic Reporter, to be fluent in six languages — French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian.
The decision by Pope Benedict to resign on February 28, announced Monday, sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March. The traditional period of mourning that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.
Observers told The Associated Press that while there are a number papal contenders in the wings, there is no obvious front-runner.
Those are similar to the circumstances in 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict was elected pontiff at age 78, making him the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. Before his elevation, he had been planning to retire as the Vatican’s chief orthodoxy watchdog, to spend his final years writing in what he called the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.
Apart from cardinals Ouellet, Turkson and Arinze, other contenders for the papal succession whose names quickly emerged include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is considered a long shot.
All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the closed-door meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope.
Tradition calls for the ballots to be burned after each voting round.
Black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen.
White smoke means a new pope has been elected.
Popes are allowed to resign.
Roman Catholic Church law specifies only that the resignation be “freely made and properly manifested.”