Catholics Odds On To Vote For Youth

Pope Benedict XVI’s shock resignation means that the Roman Catholic Church is on the hunt for its next leader and the bookmakers have gone to town betting on the outcome of the papal conclave that will elect the new Bishop of Rome.

It is possible to bet on not only the cardinal who succeeds Pope Benedict XVI but also the election winner’s papal name, age and nationality, plus the length of the papal conclave. It will be interesting to see if Paddy Power, the eponymous media manager of the Ireland-based bookmaker and provider of novelty bets, gets chucked out of St Peter’s Square for displaying his company’s odds, which is what happened before the 2005 papal conclave.

Paddy Power St Peter's Square

Ballsy marketing as usual: In 2005, Paddy Power showed up on St Peter’s Square showing odds on the next Papal Conclave.

Anyone who suggests that there is a sure thing – or anything approaching one – in the 2013 papal conclave is a sandwich short of a picnic and not worth much attention. As it stands today, 118 of the 210 members of the College of Cardinals have the right to vote – electors have to be under the age of 80 – and there is any number of contenders. Of the 118 voters, there are 62 Europeans, 19 Central/South Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians and one Australian, the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.

Opinions vary among the bookmakers betting on the 2013 papal conclave as to who is the favourite but the short-priced men include Marc Ouellet at odds of around 4-1, Peter Turkson at odds of around 4-1, Angelo Scola at odds of around 5-1 and Tarcisio Bertone at odds of around 8-1. Other men whose names are getting traction in international media circles are Leonardo Sandri, Gianfranco Ravasi and Angelo Bagnasco at odds of around 10-1, 14-1 and 16-1 respectively.

Ouellet heads the Congregation of Bishops, which is a great role in which to win friends and influence people, and is close to Pope Benedict XVI in theological thinking.

Turkson would become the first black pope if he won the 2013 papal conclave. The Ghanaian’s relative youth – he is 64 years old – means that he is viewed as the leading African candidate, although recent controversies over his work in Rome could come back to haunt him at the ballot box.

Scola has led the Roman Catholic Church in Milan and Venice in recent times. Those two Italian dioceses have produced five popes in the last 100 years and Scola’s scholarship of Islam means that he is well positioned to lead his religion in the 21st century given the international landscape.

Bertone is the Cardinal Secretary of State, Sandri is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Ravasi is the Pontifical Council for Culture boss and Bagnasco, well known for taking then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to task, is the Archbishop of Genoa.

It is only natural that most 2013 papal conclave punters will try to find the outright winner and, provided that one does not wager too heavily, there is nothing wrong with that. But surely the smartest way to bet on the election about which everyone with the slightest interest in the Roman Catholic faith is talking lies in the exotics.

Joseph Ratzinger was 78 years and three days old when he was elected as the 265th Pope and assumed the papal name of Benedict XVI. Only four men were older than the German when they became the Bishop of Rome and, with Pope Benedict XVI becoming the first to abdicate from the position in nearly 600 years, one must think that the 118 voters will be keen to elect someone with a few less miles on the clock.

Of the seven aforementioned contenders, Turkson is the only one who will be aged under 65 at the end of March 2013. Ouellet and Sandri will be in their late 60s, Bagnasco, Ravasi and Scola will be in the early 70s and Bertone will be even older than Ratzinger was on his election day.

Many bookmakers are betting on five-year age bands, with 66-70 available at odds of around 2-1 and 71-75 trading at odds of around 11-4. Since 1700, the average age of Popes at election has been 65. Life expectancy has increased a lot over the last 300 years but surely the 66-75 age bracket is the 10-year one most likely to produce Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. Dutching odds of 2-1 and 11-4 works out at 4-6 and that looks somewhat generous in the circumstances.

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