London, March 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) As cardinals gathered in the Vatican Tuesday to elect a new pope, bookmakers appeared as uncertain as everyone else as to who would emerge as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion baptized Catholics.
Cardinals Angelo Scola of Italy – seeking to become the first Italian pope in 35 years – and Odilo Scherer from Brazil are the favourites with most bookmakers, with British bookmaker William Hill offering odds of 9/4 and 4/1 respectively.
The relatively generous odds reflect what is generally regarded as being an open field, with the Catholic Church caught unawares by the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict in February, the first unforced papal resignation in some 600 years.
The third favourite, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, is at 9/2.
If either Scherer — a prolific tweeter – or Turkson are elected, they would become the first non-European popes.
A dark horse, at 10/1, is Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Vatican’s chief theological watchdog.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at 20/1, has also been mentioned as a possible shock victor.
His lack of fluency in foreign languages, a key skill for any pope, is a factor against him, however, analysts say.
In an interesting development, the Paddy Power bookmaker is offering odds of 500/1 for rock singer Bono.
The lead singer of Ireland’s U2 is not, however, a cardinal.
The 115 cardinal-electors attended a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Tuesday.