March Madness: The ‘Sweet Sistine’

If filling out an NCAA bracket is simply not enough for you this month or March, get holy! Introducing the Sweet Sistine – the top 16 ‘papabile’, or eligible cardinals up for the new title of Pope.

Of course, there are 117 cardinals in the running now that Pope Benedict the 16th, (now Pope Emeritus) has retired to his summer home south of Rome to pray and meditate for the rest of his life. Religion News Service now allows you to vote on your favorite picks on their website. They have narrowed the field down to the 16 they believe will replace ‘The 16th”.


The cardinal chosen to be seated on the papal thrown isn’t just of high interest to devote Catholics, it’s actually big business.

As the Huffington Post reports, much is at stake with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI’s successor, including a lot of money. Paddy Power, Europe’s largest bookmaker, has already taken more than £100,000 in bets, and expects to see multi-million-pound action closer to next month’s conclave at the Sistine Chapel.

Here is just a sampling of Paddy’s favorites:

Paddy Power
Paddy Power ‘Pickin’ the Pope’

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, age 68: 7-2: “[This is] in no small part because of his closeness to the current Pope and his serious political acumen,” says the odds compiler. “He is very well backed by the punters already.”

Cardinal Archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola, 71: 4-1 “[Scola] is appealing to punters who think an Italian candidate will be resident in the Vatican next. It is well known that there is a solid Italian voting block in the College of Cardinals, and Scola is currently top of the pile.” Bettors also expressed like Scola’s countrymen, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 70, at 6-1 and 14-1 respectively.

Not surprisingly, Italy is also the 6-5 favorite as the next pope’s country of origin.

Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64: 4-1: “He’s commanded almost a quarter of the bets so far! Some are pointing to the political pressure for a non-Westerner to be appointed, and Catholicism is certainly growing in Africa. The question remains whether or not the European Cardinals will connect with him enough to give the necessary ballots to become the first black pope.”

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, 63: 20-1: “Could quietly emerge as a serious contender.”

So whether you’re betting, bracketing or just praying, here’s to the next pope – whomever he may be. Conclave will determine who he is, and you can bet a lot of hearts will be broken and enlightened when the skies turn black.

Che Dio ti benedica!

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Josh Benson

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