European bookmakers Monday morning began taking bets on Pope Benedict XVI's replacement when he official retires at the end of February.
Not only are gamblers eager to put down wagers on who will be the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, there are betting lines open on which country the churchman will be from and what papal name he will select.
According to the famous Irish bookie "Paddy Power" (http://bit.ly/12FPssL), an African is the early front-runner to be pope as the church has expanded quickly across the continent. Keep in mind, as with the Kentucky Derby or any other popular betting event, the odds may have changed slightly by the time you read this.
The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, is an early long-shot at 125/1. Cardinal George, 76, is really not even in the running as he already submitted his resignation to the Vatican more than a year ago and is suffering from a recent return of cancer.
Here is the top early line from Paddy:
-Cardinal Peter Turkson is the early market leader at 9/4 and speaks six languages. The Ghanaian can understand Latin and Greek and has seen plenty of support early doors.
-Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is 5/2 to be elected as the next Pope. He is Prefect of the congregation for Bishops which is seen as a powerful position within the Vatican, it seems. According to one of the Paddy Power lads who has his finger on the Catholic pulse, Cardinal Marc has experience of working in Latin in America, is a friend of Benedict and is apparently outgoing and charismatic. At 64 he is about the right age but could be seen as too young if anything!
-Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria at 3/1. If either Cardinal Francis Arinze or Cardinal Peter Turkson are elected it would be the first time in history there would be a black Pope.
-Early steamers in the market are Cardinal Keith O'Brien from Scotland who has been trimmed from 40/1 into 33/1, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who has seen his price slashed from 150/1 in to 80/1.
-It doesn't look so good for Bono or Father Dougal Maguire though and they are both big outsiders at 1000/1.
What nation do early gamblers believe the pope will call home? Even though an African cardinal is leading the wagering derby at the moment, Italy is a 5/4 favorite to end up as the pope's home nation. The United States comes at 4/1.
What name will the new pope select? Peter is a 4/1 favorite at the moment. The long-shot at 100/1 is Damian.
Top contenders and odds:
Betting: Who will be the next Pope? via www.paddypower.com/bet
9/4 Cardinal Peter Turkson
5/2 Cardinal Marc Ouellet
7/2 Cardinal Francis Arinze
7/1 Archbishop Angelo Scola
10/1 Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
12/1 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
14/1 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
16/1 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
20/1 Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
25/1 Cardinal Raymond Burke
25/1 Cardinal Cladio Hummes
25/1 Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
25/1 Cardinal Christoph von Schonborn
33/1 Cardinal Wilfrid Napier
33/1 Cardinal William Levada
33/1 Cardinal Camillo Ruini
33/1 Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera
33/1 Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa
33/1 Cardinal Renato Martino
33/1 Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith
33/1 Archbishop Piero Marini
33/1 Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera
33/1 Cardinal Keith O'Brien