Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze: the next Pope?

The first papal resignation since 1415 will throw the world’s attention on Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is the bookies’ favourite to succeed Benedict XVI. Not so long ago, the candidates would all be Italians. Now, the odds on a pope from the third world are quite high. Europe now stands out as a secularist anomaly in a world where religion is strong and growing stronger, as we argue in this week’s Spectator.

There is an saying in the Vatican: young cardinals vote for old popes. This bodes will for the 80-year-old Cardinal Arinze, an Igbo Nigerian who spent 25 years in the Vatican. He was, once, the world’s youngest bishop. He is quite conservative, as the last two Popes were, and was seen as a runner last time. The liberal Cardinals will like the idea of a Pope from the developing world. The new rules mean a new Pope needs the votes of two-thirds of the Cardinals, so one faction cannot impose its will over another. Since no one expected Benedict’s resignation, it could well be that the Cardinals are not ready to come up with a long-term solution. Older popes are, historically, a form of compromise. Arinze himself can’t vote, having turned 80. There are only ten African electors left.

Coral and William Hill both have Arinze as favourite. A Hill spokesman said:-

“When we opened betting last time around, in 2005, Francis Arinze was our favourite. His odds did drift towards the date of the announcement when Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) became the favourite, but he remained in the top three. Also, when Ratzinger became pope, Arinze took over from him as cardinal bishop of Velletri-Segni (a Catholic diocese close to Rome) —— it could be that he’ll follow in his footsteps again.”

The bookies may well have it wrong: odds simply reflect the weight of money, and the market may not be very liquid. Most

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