A brown Pope? The long odds on Bombay’s Cardinal Dias

01dias.jpg With the passing of the Pontiff, there is an outside possibility that the next Pope will be Bombay’s Cardinal Ivan Dias. As with the Olympics, the Indian is the long shot. According to the Associated Press, bookies have listed the odds as 16:1 against him; the only online betting agency I can find gives the odds at 47:1 right now.

India has 16,694,000 Catholics who make up 1.54% of the country’s population. This makes it 16th in the world in terms of the number of Catholics per country. However, India does not have alot of leverage in the selection process for the new Pope. India has five Cardinals, only three of whom are eligible to vote. Cardinals Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy and Simon Ignatius Pimenta are over 80, and are excluded from voting by an age limited introduced by Pope John Paul II himself. The remaining three Cardinals are Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of the Kerala based Syro Malabar Church, and Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi.

The speculation about an Indian Pope seems to have emerged when that most religious of magazines, Businessweek, stated that Cardinal Ivan Dias (described simply as “a friend of Mother Teresa”) was under consideration for the top job.

According to the Calcutta Telegraph:

Dias, the archbishop of Mumbai, is among 13 cardinals believed to be in the running. Twenty-six years ago, the Vatican created history by anointing John Paul II, a Pole, the first non-Italian to be elected to the top post in over 400 years. There is now speculation if history will be made again by naming the first Indian and, possibly more important, the first non-White. Whether or not Dias is chosen, there is a likelihood that a non-White could actually become the Pope because several of the cardinals being tipped for the post are from Latin America and Africa. Dias’s office had earlier dismissed as “rubbish” the speculation that he was a candidate. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India spokesman, Fr Babu Joseph, said: “The Indian Church will be happy and proud if the next Pope comes from the country. But these (about Dias’s prospects) are speculative reports. The papal election does not happen just like that.” Dias has a few factors going for him. For instance, he has been a Vatican diplomat for 33 years in various parts of the world before coming to Mumbai in 1997 as the archbishop. He knows 17 languages, mostly European, and even speaks Korean. Above all, like Pope John Paul, he is orthodox, and is relatively young at 69 by Vatican standards. [Telegraph]

Despite all of his positive attributes, some consider Dias to be (ahem) at a geographical disadvantage when it comes to competing for the job:

Sources, however, said irrespective of the arithmetic of the electoral college, the outcome is determined by the Vatican’s influence. A church source explained that huge funds are required to run the Vatican and only a White Pope can raise the money as he is able to tap with ease large private corporations and heads of European countries. [Telegraph]

My thinking is that the next Pope will be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “a German who has been John Paul’s enforcer on Church doctrine.” He’d be a place holder, somebody almost identical to the outgoing candidate, who would probably only be in office a short time. This would give the Cardinals enough time to pick the next long term Pope, likely somebody from the Third World.

Despite the historic and continuing influence of the Italian Cardinals who hold 38 seats in the College of Cardinals, the future of the Catholic Church is clearly outside of Europe. Only 15% of Western Europeans go to Church once a week, and they are a rapidly greying population. Even countries like Spain, Portual and Ireland are rapidly secularizing. [In the UK, more Muslims go to Friday services than Christians go to Sunday Services, even though Muslims are only 2% of the population] Pope John Paul had bet on Eastern Europe to reverse that trend, but instead Eastern Europe is secularizing as well. Personally, I’d bet on Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze who at 3:1 is the market’s second choice for the job. [The odds are 5:2 in favor of Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan]

The selection of Arinze as the first African Pope since Gelasius I, who died in the year 496, would certainly put the issue of poverty at the top of the agenda.[Businessweek]

You can watch the odds yourself, though sites like bestbetting.com. They put the odds against Cardinal Dias at 43:1, a downward shift since the AP report on this subject. [Note, almost all the odds given in this post are from the AP, except for the 43:1 odds on Dias, which is from Bestbetting]

For those enterprising punters out there, no you can’t just ask the tailor for an inside scoop:

The election is an elaborate process, requiring a majority of at least two-thirds plus one. When the conclave elects a Pope, he is asked if he accepts and which name he wishes to take. Once this is done, he dons papal vestments — tailors keep several sizes ready — and sits on a throne in the Sistine Chapel to receive the other cardinals who file up to pay homage and pledge obedience. [Telegraph]

p.s. my apologies for scooping the only Catholic mutineer on this story and sincerely hope this wont precipitate any more hungama. Really :)

8 thoughts on “A brown Pope? The long odds on Bombay’s Cardinal Dias

  1. Betting on the next Pope? If I didn’t find it so hilarious I would surely find it offensive.

  2. So, despite the whole thing being a longshot, everyone seems to be betting that the next Pope will be from, as they say, the “developing world.” 65-70% of the world’s Catholic population does not live in Europe or the United States, however, half the cardinal electors are from Europe.

    The best clip on Pope-betting is from the now-defunct Las Vegas Mercury and around here, wherever I may be, you can place a bet on how the cardinals will vote, who’ll leave early and other erroneous details of the process.

  3. after destroying the heathens on multuple continents and turning them into d’souzas, imeldas, cristobals, and other gringo types, it is now india’s turn….

  4. Cardinal Dias was pictured and mentioned as 1 of 14 possibilities in the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Personally, my prayers are with, and for, him.

  5. Well, he’s at 25:1 and 30:1 at two different sites now (both from the link above), so he’s making progress from the original date.

    I don’t know why they can’t do this as a tournament. The NCAAs are getting dull over the years.

  6. i think ivan should win!! he’s the best!! i hate europe and africa’s too poor

  7. Maradiaga and Martini are the good guys here, so they should probably get creamed. Bet on bad guy Ratzinger, a bargain at 7 to 1, to initiate the papal reich. Arinze is not out of the question, though the odds are terrible. I’m counting on the Italian vote getting split in the crowd. Fascist apologist Schoenborn is a tempting longshot at 16 to 1.