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.
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?
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.