Bookies tip French cardinal for pope

15th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, April 14 (AFP) - If British bookies and punters have any sway at the Vatican, the man to succeed Pope John Paul II at the Holy See will be a former favourite of the pope - Joseph Ratzinger, Francis Arinze of Nigeria or Jean-Marie Lustiger of France.

LONDON, April 14 (AFP) - If British bookies and punters have any sway at the Vatican, the man to succeed Pope John Paul II at the Holy See will be a former favourite of the pope - Joseph Ratzinger, Francis Arinze of Nigeria or Jean-Marie Lustiger of France.

Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" during a long tenure as the late pope's guardian of Catholic doctrine, on Thursday held the best odds - seven to two - to become pope at Anglo-Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, but was only in third place at Britain's biggest bookmakers William Hill.

Paddy Power put Lustiger in second place - four to one - to become pope, followed by Carlo Maria Martini, the former head of the powerful Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former archbishop of Milan.

At William Hill, punters saw Arinze as the number-one choice for the cardinals who will elect the pope, heralding perhaps the world's first black leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Lustiger followed as a close second, with Ratzinger in third place.

From Monday, 115 cardinals not yet 80 years old will enter the conclave at the Vatican in order to choose the next leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

Ratzinger's odds climbed during pre-conclave negotiations, after media reports that the conservative could already have secured 50 votes from fellow cardinals.

Lustiger, France's senior churchman who converted from Judaism at the start of World War Two, stepped down in February as archbishop of Paris but his close ties to the former pope have propelled him to both bookmakers' second spot.

Both men are 78 and reportedly reluctant to take on the mantle of front-runner, let alone pope.

Paddy Power, head of his eponymous betting parlor chain, told AFP that hopes for Lustiger seemed to be rising.

"An awful lot of people have placed money on him. He was 20-to-one two weeks ago," he said, adding that one punter had placed EUR 1,500 (USD 1,900) on the Frenchman.

He said odds have fallen for Honduran cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 63, who had originally ranked among the frontrunners for the papacy after John Paul's death on April 2.

"He was one of the first in the market. But he has fallen back to 14-to-one because nobody is backing him," Power said, saying that punters believed the Honduran was too young.

"All the cardinals will be thinking, if they want to be pope - maybe not this time but next time - they don't want this pope to last for 25 years," he said.

British and Irish bookmakers, who take bets on nearly everything including election outcomes, have also said Benedict was the favorite name for the future pope, followed by John Paul, Pius, John, Peter and Paul.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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