Pope and jockeys

Cardinal Angelo Scola – 3/1 F

Age: 72

Nationality: Italy

Pros: A front-runner in 2005, lost out to Benedict XVI. Has written about “Satanic Rites in the Church’s Judgement”, so knows his enemy

Cons: Vatican expert John Allen has written: "If you like Benedict XVI, you’ll love Scola”. Erm…

Cardinal Peter Turkson – 3/1 F

Age: 65

Nationality: Ghana

Pros: Joint favourite with the bookies. Pundits think it could be time for a black Pope, and at 3/1 the going looks good for the Ghanaian.

Cons: Not all that up for it. Reckons the first black Pope would have "a rough time”. In St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes, it is predicted that the election of a Pope named Peter will herald the End Times.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – 4/1

Age: 79

Nationality: Italy

Pros: Outspoken criticism of The Da Vinci Code suggests discerning literary taste.

Cons: Publicly blamed the child sex scandal on homosexual infiltration of the clergy. Advanced age may count against him after last Pope pulled up before finish.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet – 7/1

Age: 69

Nationality: Canada

Pros: This Canadian hopeful once had a summer job fighting forest fires, a skill which may serve him well as Pope.

Cons: Thinks abortion is a “moral crime” even in cases of rape. Reform-minded punters may wish to steer clear.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco – 9/1

Age: 70

Nationality: Italy

Pros: The Italian Cardinal will be expected to run well on home ground.

Cons: Needed an armed guard after comparing homosexuality to incest and paedophilia in 2007.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi – 12/1

Age: 71

Nationality: Italy

Pros: Thinks Darwin can be reconciled with the Bible, quotes Amy Winehouse on Twitter and says Church is boring.

Cons: Sounds like he’s in the wrong job.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri – 14/1

Age: 70

Nationality: Argentina

Pros: Well practiced – used to read speeches on behalf of Pope John Paul II in his final years.

Cons: According to insiders, he is more of an administrator than a theologian.

Cardinal Péter Erdő – 16/1

Age: 60

Nationality: Hungary

Pros: One of the younger Cardinals in the race, this colt could stay well as older runners tire.

Cons: Is it too soon to race in the Conclave? Along with Peter Turkson, his name means his election risks fulfilling the St Malachy End Times prophecy.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn – 16/1

Age: 68

Nationality: Austria

Pros: Wasn't a member of the Hitler youth.

Cons: Once called for an open discussion of priestly celibacy. If not fitted with blinkers, sight of nuns could take his eyes off the race.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga – 20/1

Age: 71

Nationality: Honduras

Pros: Viewed as a moderate; has stood up to oppressive regimes in his native Honduras.

Cons: Once claimed that, in order to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Jews influenced the media to exploit the controversy regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Cardinal Francis Arinze – 25/1

Age: 81

Nationality: Nigeria

Pros: If enthusiasm for a black Pope shows, Nigerian Arinze could come through to challenge Turkson in the final furlongs.

Cons: No spring chicken, may lack staying power.

Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer – 25/1

Age: 63

Nationality: Brazil

Pros: With both the World Cup and the Olympics heading to Brazil in the coming years, can the man from São Paulo make it a hat-trick for the South American powerhouse?

Cons: Has said that "Priests aren't showmen". Does he have the flair for the big stage?

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle – 25/1

Age: 55

Nationality: Philippines

Pros: Hailing from one of Catholicism's great global strongholds, Tagle would help the Church consolidate on firmer ground away from increasingly godless Europe.

Cons: At 55, a win for the youthful Tagle would buck the the trend, but does he have the strength to out-run the more experienced in the field?

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – 33/1

Age: 76

Nationality: Argentina

Pros: A man of the people, renowned for his humility – lives in a small flat, does his own cooking and takes public transport.

Cons: Pros may leave him ill-suited to dominion over a vastly wealthy global Church and city state.

Pope Formosus, the Pope whose skeleton stood trial in 897AD – 150/1

Age: 1,117

Nationality: Italy

Pros: Previous experience of the job

Cons: Dead – but if his skeleton was considered fit for trial…

All of One Direction – 200/1

Age: 93

Nationality: Britain

Pros: Appealing to the youth. Instant fan base. Oh, and they weren’t members of the Hitler Youth.

Cons: One of them, probably Styles, will want to go solo before long. Schism alert!

Bishop Brennan off Father Ted – 250/1

Age: Unknown

Nationality: Ireland

Pros: Would bring some much needed comic relief to the role.

Cons: Is a fictional character, but then…

A horse – 500/1

Age: Unknown

Nationality: Horse

Pros: They seem to be getting everywhere lately. Fits well into this attempt at Grand-National-based humour.

Cons: Is the Church ready for a non-human Pope?