The odds of an Indian cardinal being elected as the next pope may be slim, but they exist — about 100/1 to be precise. Bookmakers from around the world are offering odds on one of the five Indian cardinals of the 115 who will vote at the conclave that begins on Tuesday.
Odds are available through seven international bookmakers on Ivan Dias, former archbishop of Mumbai, even if they are heavily stacked against him.
Dias is on a list of about 90 candidates compiled by Oddschecker.com, which has aggregated odds from across bookmakers, including Paddy Power (125/1) and Ladbrookes (100/1). No other Indian cardinal features on the list.
Cardinal Angelo Scola from Italy is one of the hot favourites among bookies, with Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana giving him a run for his money.
Gambling on papal succession dates back to at least 500 years. However, not everyone is amused by this ungodly activity. “It trivialises the importance of the process,” said Father Nigel Barrett, head of the Catholic Communication Centre. “I don’t think the cardinals would be bothered by this. They would be focused on getting the right person elected.”
Some candidates on bookmakers’ books don’t even have an outside chance, though odds are being given for 15 celebrities including disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey and avowed atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins.
Aside from Dias, cardinals from India who will be at the conclave are Telesphore Toppo (Archbishop of Patna), Oswald Gracias (Archbishop of Mumbai), George Alenchery and Baselios Cleemis, both from Kerala.
According to the bookmakers, a good bet from Asia for papal elevation is represented by way of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle from Phillipines.
In total, 115 cardinals are expected to participate in the conclave, where the next head of the Catholic church will be elected through a process of secret ballot after the previous Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the position citing age and health concerns.