Runners and Riders

Everyone’s in with a shout and it’s a wide-open field in the Benedict XVI Memorial Stakes. After the present incumbent being pulled up in the final furlong, a number of strong contenders are jockeying for position in the dash for the line. I’m grateful to Paddy Power, the Irish bookmakers, for providing the latest on runners and riders. 

Neck and neck at 7/2 are the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson and Italian Archbishop Angelo Scola, heavily favoured last time out in 2005. Turkson screened a video making alarmist predictions on the rise of Islam which has been viewed by over thirteen million people since it was uploaded in 2009. So, full marks to him for showing a bit of muscular Christianity. Scola outpunches his opponent theologically, Peter T is no match for the double doctorates in the armoury of the Italian. Rocky Marciano meets Muhammad Ali.

Other contenders in hot pursuit are the affable Marc Ouellet of Canada at 4/1 and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo or caretaker in the interim between resignation and election, at 6/1. Ouellet is the President of the Pontifical Commission for South America – a burgeoning harvest but a dreadfully tedious job – while Bertone was a sharp critic of Dan Brown’s book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and, incidentally, despite being a clear front-runner, is getting on a bit now so he might well run out of puff as the race hots up.
Whoever wins gets a new name – an additional incentive to do well, perhaps. Paddy Power is offering odds called a ‘St Malachy and Nostradamus Double’ of 16/1 on heavily-favoured Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze’s election plus the papal name ‘Peter’. This might be a bit of a break with tradition, there having been only one ‘Peter’, who was quite a well-known fisherman before taking on the job of Vicar of Christ.  

In 1140, after a prophetic vision, St Malachy of Armagh is said to have produced a list of popes from his own lifetime until the end of the world. Some sources suggest that the final entry in his list is a chap called ‘Peter the Roman’, hence Paddy Power’s generous odds, I suppose. Did God signal His intention to have a wee flutter, I wonder?

Smart money might even prefer a hedge on Bono at 1000/1. Or, even me. I was baptised an Anglican, but in the flurry of paperwork, you never know, they might not even notice. I thought perhaps if elected, I might take the name ‘Brian’. Brian the First has a nice ring to it, I think. I might be quite good at blessing the multitudes in the Square and decent accommodation in Rome is so very expensive these days.
Postscript. Even as I write, the odds have shortened on Ouellet at 7/2. Race looks wide open, still. Richard Dawkins is a rank outsider at 666/1.
All of the above is, of course, amusing, fanciful and mildly entertaining, a testament to the fact that for the most part, Rome can do its incense-swinging, bowing and scraping with no help from me. However, the appointment of the anti-Semitic Cardinal Rodrigues Maradiana of Honduras would not, for me at least, be a first choice.

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