John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Odds on an African Pope

by John Campbell
February 14, 2013

An empty papal throne is pictured before the Ash Wednesday mass at the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican February 13, 2013. (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters)


British, Irish, and Australian bookmakers will place odds on anything. They are already looking at possible successors to Pope Benedict XVI.  The odds change by the minute, but the three favorites include two Africans: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. The bookies’ other favorite is Cardinal Marc Ouellet, of Canada. The British bookmaker William Hill gives Cardinal Arinze two-to-one odds. Coral, also British, gives Cardinal Arinze seven-to-four. An Australian and an Irish bookmaker (among others) makes Cardinal Ouellet the favorite for the moment.

In the run-up to the papal conclave that selected Benedict XVI, Cardinal Arinze was frequently a bookmaker favorite. Now, at eighty years of age, he is ineligible to vote this time around–though his age does not preclude his election. Cardinal Turkson is sixty-four, Cardinal Ouellet is sixty-eight. Pope Benedict appointed over half of the College of Cardinals who will be voting on a successor.

Already there is press commentary about the appropriateness of an African pope because of the explosive growth of Catholicism on the continent and its relative decline in Europe and North America. We can anticipate more such commentary in the run-up to the Papal Conclave convening. But, the majority of voting cardinals will be European.

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  • Posted by Andrew

    I find it interesting that Cardinal Turkson claims Arinze is ineligible to be elected. I wonder if this is a political play on Turkson’s part to increase his own odds or if he’s just misinformed about the eligibility age. From VOA:

    “This is speculation that the press gets into sometimes, a little bit unrealistic, because everybody knows that Cardinal Arinze has reached the age of 80 and so he does not qualify by age even to go into a conclave to elect a pope, and he cannot be chosen or elected,” said Turkson.

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