The Next Pope — After Pope Benedict XVI

The Next Pope Book by Anura Guruge
The Next Pope

[March 2009: Please visit this page for my latest work on “The Next Pope After Pope Benedict XVI“.]

Wagering on papal elections is an age-old and somewhat beloved tradition originated by the Romans prior to the midway point of the 1st millennium. Since then huge amounts of money have changed hands on the outcome of papal elections and of late, the new assumed name chosen by the pope elect.

Paddy Power, Ireland’s premier bookmaker, has taken the art and sport of betting on papal elections to new heights.

As I discuss on page 5 of my ‘Pope Names‘ book, Paddy Power displayed uncanny prescience when it came to the April 18, 2005 conclave to elect the successor to the long-lived, iconic Pope John Paul II. They had the name ‘Benedict’ as their top pick at 3:1, and had Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who did become Pope Benedict XVI, as their second favorite papabile at 9:2. Getting both the name that would be assumed and the right cardinal, that close, was pretty impressive.

I am currently reading Father Andrew M. Greeley’s “The Making of the Popes 1978,” which deals with the two papal elections that took place, in quick succession, during the second half of 1978 following the death of Pope Paul VI. On page 113 he talks about the odds being offered in London (and I assume that he might be talking about Ladbrokes) prior to the first election in August. The smiling, truly charismatic Albino Luciani, the Patriarch of Venice, who would glorify the papacy for a fleeting 33 days as Pope John Paul I isn’t mentioned in the list of papabile that had been assigned odds.

Paddy Power is now taking bets on the next pope.

Right now they have another Venetian Cardinal Angelo Scola as the 6-1 favorite.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, from Nigeria, who in 2005 was the Paddy Power’s top pick (at 3:1), just ahead of Cardinal Ratzinger, is also on the list. He is, however, now the 5th pick at 10:1.

Angelo Scola is the only Italian in Paddy Power’s top 5.

It is now 30 years since there has been an Italian pope. That seems long but is by no means a record. During the Avignon period in the early 14th century there were seven French-born popes, starting with Clement V (1305-1314) and ending with Gregory XI (1370-1378), whose reigns in total lasted just under 74 years. But there had been a one year interregnum prior to Clement V’s election. So in reality there had been a 75 year period without an Italian pope.

Betting on the next pope, when the current pope is in good fettle would appear to some as ghoulish or irreverent. But to be fair this is a ‘sport’ nearly as old as the papacy. It is just that with the Internet, it is slightly more ‘in your face’ than it probably was even in 1978.

Benedict XVI was elected three days after his 78th birthday. That made him the 5th oldest to have been elected in the last 500 years. [The dates prior to that are not reliable enough provide accurate statistics.] Now, in 2008, at 81, he does not make the ‘top 10’ as one of the oldest popes in the last 500 years — the oldest during this period having been Leo XIII who was 93 years old when he died, after 25 years as pope, in July 1903.

Both Benedict XVI and John XXIII quipped about the potential brevity of their papacies when explaining their choice of name. Jon XXIII mentioned, rightly, that most of the previous popes named ‘John’ had had short pontificates. It is indeed true that the 21 popes named ‘John’ had papacies that were below the ~7 year average for all the popes.

Benedict XVI noted that Benedict XV had but served briefly — for 7 years and 4 months. The 17 popes named ‘Benedict’ also come in below the ~7 year average — even below that of ‘Johns.’ If you are interested in the exact statistics you can find those on page 81 of my ‘Pope Names‘ book.

Hope this helped. Thank you for your time.

Anura Guruge


7 thoughts on “The Next Pope — After Pope Benedict XVI”

  1. Perhaps it would be helpful to provide a list of the papal names of the last few centuries along with the ordinal number that would be assumed by the next pope. For example, if the pope who follows Benedict XVI were to take the regnal name Gregory – he would be Pope Gregory XVII. Your book on papal names is outstanding and you would no doubt be very qualified to compile such a list to share with individuals visiting this site. Thanks and God bless you.

  2. Mr. Hoover,
    A wonderful suggestion. Yes, I should do this.
    So much I could do, but so little time and I even question my productivity.
    For the last few weeks I have been ‘heads down’ doing research for another papal book.
    That is why I haven’t done many posting.
    But your point is taken. I will take some time off, soon, and do a few postings.
    Found another INTERESTING papal fact, while doing my new research.
    Had you realized that Pius XII was elected Pope on his birthday, March 2.
    Definitely the only pope that has this distinction over the last 200 years. As you know, we do not have accurate birthdays prior to ~1400s.
    But I want to go and check to see whether this unique or whether there are other popes who got this … the ultimate of birthday honors.
    More later. Thank you. Your comments are much appreciated.
    Grace, may peace be with you.

  3. I have had a very unique experience while I was participating in a mountain bike race in Juarez Mexico in Oct 2008 (I have written about it in my website ). A particular Cardinal by the name of Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga was in El Paso Texas in mid Sept 2008 and was no longer in the area when I saw him calling me by name. At the time I did not recognize him but I knew that it must have been a paranormal spiritual experience because I do not know any one in Juarez, this cardinal, whom I didn’t know it was him at the time, was as if he didn’t know I was participating in a race, I tried very hard to know who it was because he knew me by name. After the race a picture of Cardinal Rodriguez in the Rio Grande Catholic newspaper kept looking like the person I saw, as I read he was in El Paso in September. I am very much aware of and have read about Saints having the ability to bilocate. The experience was so unusual that about three weeks later I decided to write it down in my journal while still fresh on my mind and while I was proof reading the entry I had this overwhelming feeling come over me where I felt that I knew this person as “Peter, it is you Peter” I then had need to write the following down, “I feel that cardinal Rodriguez will be Pope one day, the first and the last, alpha and omega, before Christ returns. This is all beautiful but am I insane?” I also received prophetic insight which I have written and turned into our Bishop. I have also done some research on Saint Malachy’s prophecy where the next pope and last will be Petrus Romanus. I do not doubt he will be next Pope Peter because I know that it was the Holy Spirit that I felt. My website goes into detail about my experience

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