Nigeria’s Francis Arinze, 80, is the 2-1 favorite at London-based William Hill Plc, meaning a 1-euro ($1.34) winning wager would return a 2-euro profit. Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana is second favorite at 5-2. At Paddy Power Plc, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, is the 5-2 frontrunner, while Turkson is 3-1 and Arinze is 7-2.
The surprise resignation may reopen rifts within the church as pressure builds to name a pope from the developing world where Catholicism is growing, offsetting declines in Europe and the U.S. Arinze, Turkson and Ouellet are also the favorites at Ladbrokes Plc, according to the bookmaker’s website.
“When Joseph Ratzinger took over as pope, Francis Arinze ran him close in the betting,” Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said in an e-mailed statement. “We think he may be well placed to succeed him now, although age could be against him.”
African PopePaddy Power is also offering odds of 6-4 that the next pontiff will be Italian, with an African at 2-1 and a Central or South American at 10-3. The German-born Pope Benedict become the 265th leader of the Catholic Church after succeeding John Paul II of Poland. John Paul was the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in the 16th century.
The Italian candidate on the shortest odds at Paddy Power is Gianfranco Ravasi, at 7-1. William Hill has Angelo Scola, another Italian and the archbishop of Milan, at 5-1.
A traditionalist, Benedict became pope after spending a quarter century as the enforcer of doctrine in an office formerly known as the Inquisition.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” the pontiff said today.
The new pope will be chosen through a conclave, a special gathering of cardinals who are sequestered in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican until they agree on a successor. Pope Benedict will have no role in choosing his successor, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said at a news conference in Rome. He will initially retire to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo before transferring to live in a convent.