Rumors of the impending resignation of Pope Francis have people wondering–who will be the next pope? What are the next pope odds?
Odds and betting for papal elections are a global phenomenon. Millions of people all over the world watch the election process play out on TV. Cable news covers it like the Oscars and the Super Bowl all in one.
In this post, I’ll reveal my pick for who will be the next pope, along with analysis of the “next pope odds” for 10 likely candidates.
If you’re one of the millions of people wondering who will the next pope be, read on.
And if you’re looking for a list of sportsbooks that are probably taking action on this and who also have low minimum deposits, I have a list here where you can find low minimum deposit sportsbooks.
5 Potential Next Popes–The 5 Cardinals Next in Line for Pope
I compiled the list below from the best press reports and conventional wisdom I can find.
The race for the next pope is heating up. The press is beginning to identify the papabile, the small group of men who are “pope-able,” or eligible to be the next Holy Father.
With Pope Francis’ impending resignation, cardinals are splitting into factions representing different candidates. At the time of this post, the five men listed below have the most juice. The odds of one of these five men becoming pope are above 60%.
I’ve listed them with their name and title, age, country of origin, and my take on their overall odds to become the next Holy Father.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 65, Philippines (16.67% chance of winning)
Cardinal Peter Turkson, 73, Ghana (14.29% chance of winning)
Archbishop Angelo Scola, 80, Italy (12.5% chance of winning)
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 78, Canada (11.11% chance of winning)
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 73, USA (7.69% chance of winning)
Notice that the odds of winning only add up to 61.15%. I’ve left a lot of room for dark horse candidates. That’s the way this election process moves. More often than not, the public favorite is nowhere near the largest vote-getter.
Below is a brief review of each of my 5 potential winning picks.
1–Cardinal Luis Tagle Next Pope Odds 5/1
The 64 year old Cardinal Luis Tagle served as Archbishop of Manila. He’s since had a brilliant career at the Vatican.
Cardinal Tagle is the director of Caritas Internationalis, the largest Catholic relief organization in the world. He’s also head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. That last office gives him sole power to appoint bishops in Africa and Asia. Those are Roman Catholicism’s biggest emerging markets. Tagle is already more influential than most cardinals well before the age of 70.
Some say his youth works against him, but it might also be a good omen. At 65, he’s the same age as John Paul I and Saint Paul VI, both serving in the last century. John Paul II, one of the most popular Catholic popes in history, was elected at just 58 years old. Benedict XV took office at 59 in 1914, and Pius IX was just 54 when he was elected in 1846.
His nationality likely works heavily in his favor. He’d be the first Filipino Pope and the first Asian pope at the same time. The Church is expanding in Southeast Asia, so his election would be a move further in that direction.
If the cardinals go a more traditional route and choose to elect a European or an Italian, Cardinal Tagle would be at an obvious disadvantage. Pope Francis’ relatively progressive papacy may have pushed some cardinals toward conservatism. Others may have been inspired by his liberal ideas and choose to vote for a similar replacement.
At the time of this post, I say Cardinal Tagle has the best odds to become pope. I give him a 16.67% chance of becoming the next pope. That translates to 5/1 next pope odds.
2–Cardinal Peter TurksonNext Pope Odds 6/1
Cardinal Turkson was listed as one of the top-ten candidates in the 2013 Conclave. He’s like the Buffalo Bills in the 90s–always a bridesmaid, never the bride.
Turkson speaks and reads eight language. He holds half a dozen high-value placements in the Vatican. He’s a crowd favorite, known to be friendly and humble. He’s so well-liked that he was listed as the favorite at the end of the 2013 Conclave.
Cardinal Turkson’s election would be big news – and controversial. He was born in Ghana, and (as a result) has black skin. Should Cardinal Turkson be elected, you’ll read lots of “first black pope” stories. That would be a big deal, and it should be celebrated. But not every cardinal is on board.
His African heritage could end up being the biggest feather in Cardinal Turkson’s cap. The Church wants to push into Africa the same way it’s moved into Southeast Asia. Having an African pope would make that push much easier.
My heart is with Cardinal Turkson to win. But I’m not sure the conclave is progressive enough yet to support him in big numbers. That’s why I give Cardinal Turkson a 14.29% chance of becoming the next pope. That translates to 6/1 odds.
3–Cardinal Angelo Scola Next Pope Odds 7/1
Cardinal Scola is among the oldest members of the College of Cardinals. He was once a giant at the Vatican but missed out on his two biggest chances to rise to the office of pope.
Cardinal Scola was the odds-on favorite in the 2005 Conclave that selected Cardinal Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. But that’s nearly two decades ago, and other (younger) candidates have shoved their way in.
I think Cardinal Scola would be a lot higher on my list if it weren’t for his age. He’s already ineligible to vote in the conclave. That limits his already waning influence.
The conservative wing of the college backs Cardinal Scola. He’s defended the old ways of the church. For example, he’s come out against the giving of sacraments to the divorced.
I think Scola’s age and conservative politics limit his ability to become the next pontiff. I give him a 12.5% chance of winning on his third try. That’s 7/1 odds.
4–Cardinal Marc Ouellet Next Pope Odds 8/1 Odds
Cardinal Ouelett is another popular choice among the more conservative wing of the college. He was also a top-ten finisher in the 2013 Conclave, along with Cardinal Turkson.
I tend to think the next pope will be in his 70s. The election of Pope John Paul II at such a young age was a freak accident. The current college is older than its been in decades. That gives Cardinal Ouellet a slight leg-up.
Also going in his favor – his progressive views. He is in favor of creating more roles for women in the clergy, in part to combat sexual abuse. He’s also in favor of ordaining married men in cases where there’s a great need for clergy.
What’s working against him? I don’t think he has enough “sex appeal” or the backing of enough cardinals to rise to the office. Canada is not a hotspot for global Catholicism. His white skin may, in some cases, work against him as well.
As you can tell based on my odds, I think the next college will go with a progressive candidate. That’s mostly the reason I’m giving Cardinal Ouellet an 11.11% chance of being named pope. That’s equivalent to 8/1 next pope odds.
5–Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke – Next Pope Odds 9/1
The only American cardinal even remotely close to being among the papabile is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke. His age (74) is perfect – old enough to be considered by an increasingly-old College of Cardinals, but young enough to have years of active service to the church left in him.
Allegations of disloyalty to Pope Francis could be a boon or a curse. If the college is seeking a successor to Pope Francis’ relatively progressive ways, Cardinal Burke won’t even make the top ten list. If, on the other hand, the next election is a rebuke of Franciscan policies, I’d expect Burke to be among the top two finalists.
I’m giving Cardinal Burke a 10% chance of being elected to the papacy. His American heritage could work for him or against him, depending how the college votes. A 10% chance is equivalent to 9/1 odds.
How to Bet on the Next Pope
Most of the big online sportsbooks release lines for papal election. They’re easy enough to find.
You won’t find papal election lines at the brick and mortar books in Vegas. The books find them distasteful. They’re really popular online, though.
Unfortunately, thanks to the Internet, lines are pretty much standard from book to book. You can still bet your way around this market, but you’ll need more insight than the betting public to have any success.
When it comes to papal elections, oddsmakers don’t always have the right kind of insight to properly handicap the candidates.
Think about it–there’s no ESPN providing wall-to-wall coverage of the College of Cardinals. You can’t go look at how the cardinals voted in the minor leagues or whatever.
In some ways, a lifetime of Catholicism may give you a leg up. How many of the oddsmakers are Catholic and even understand what’s going on?
I love betting on who will be the next pope because of that reason. Odds and betting are easy because the lines are soft. If you do a little research, you can outsmart the guy setting the line.
Pope Francis was listed at 25/1 in the hours leading up to his election. A $100 bet on Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would’ve put $2,500 in your pocket. Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, opened at 12/1, but rumors spread quickly that he was earning the most votes, and he moved to 3/1 by the end of the election.
Do your homework on the candidates and don’t be afraid of backing a longshot, especially if you’re looking at early numbers.
Who Is the Pope? What Does the Pope Do?
The pope is head of the global Catholic Church. He’s also the head of state of Vatican City.
The pope is also the prime bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He’s considered the literal successor of Saint Peter. Since Saint Peter was given the Keys of Heaven by a guy named Jesus, you can tell this is an important position.
The pope holds extensive diplomatic, cultural, and spiritual influence. Some say the pope is the most important and powerful person in the world.
So, you’ll understand why I was surprised to learn that few requirements exist for the office.
Technically, any baptized male is a candidate for the Papacy. That’s it. You just have to be a dude that’s been baptized.
I was baptized Catholic, and I’m a male. That means I could be the next pope. My odds aren’t great, though.
Who Are the Cardinals? What Do They Do?
Cardinals are senior members of the Catholic clergy. They stand immediately behind the pope in the church’s order of precedence.
Put together, they’re called the College of Cardinals. They’re appointed only by the pope, and they serve for life.
Most cardinals first serve as priests, then bishops, then usually archbishops, before being appointed to the college. That helps explain why their average age is nearing 80.
When it’s time to appoint a new pope (usually after the current pope’s death), the College of Cardinals is summoned to Vatican City.
The Papal Election Process
Pope John Paul II established new procedures for the election, mostly to standardize things that had become tradition.
Since the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, cardinals must meet within ten days of the pope’s death. The conclave, as they’re known, meet in the Sistine Chapel. They’re locked in (cum clave in Latin) until the new pope is elected.
Those things are all the same, but Pope John Paul II made some significant changes.
Now, only cardinals who are 80 years old or younger can participate in the conclave. The maximum number of voting cardinals was set at 120. There were some other bureaucratic type changes made.
The cardinals vote by secret ballot, folding the paper twice and placing it in a large chalice, with Michelangelo’s Last Judgment watching over them. Four rounds of voting take place every day until one candidate receives 2/3 of the present number of cardinals.
If no one receives the necessary 2/3 majority, the ballots are burned in a stove with a chemical additive to produce black some.
When a candidate finally earns the majority vote, a different chemical is added to the burning ballots, producing a thick white smoke.
The senior cardinal deacon appears in the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, and says “Habemus Papam,” which means “We have a pope” in Latin.
The new pope appears and imparts his blessings on Rome and the rest of the world.
Pope Betting Trends–Age and Country of Origin
When working out who’s likely to become pope, it’s important to understand the trends and recent results of papal election.
Averaging the age of the last ten elected popes tells us that modern popes are around 67 years old when elected. At the end of their papacy, they’re about 80 years old.
The men next in line for pope tend to be old, but that doesn’t give us the full picture. Those numbers are a little misleading.
The papal office is changing.
So are the trends that papal election bettors can use to get an edge.
The “Old Pope” Phenomenon
Since 1958, the average age at the start of a papacy has trended sharply upward. It now stands at 70 years old. The average age at the end of a papacy during that time is 79.
The youngest pope ever? The 20 year old Benedict IX. He’s now considered a heretic for having participated in orgies at the Vatican. He also sold the papacy. Young candidates may not want to associate with Benedict IX.
Why does this happen? The cardinals are an elect group themselves – and rather old. The average age of the current list of cardinals is 72. Many of these cardinals expect to be in line for the seat themselves. Why should they elect someone young? That person may outlive them and crush their own chances to be pope.
The average length of a pope’s term as Holy Father since around 1670 is between 5 and 10 years. Here’s proof – 266 popes took office over the past 1,980 years. That’s an average of one new pope every 7.5 years.
These days, candidates below the age of 70 are said to be given more consideration. This is thanks in part to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. That resignation set a precedent for a pope’s resignation due to ill health. You could say Benedict’s resignation led directly to the current situation with Francis.
If popes can resign without scandal, then younger popes can take office. The ability to resign frees them from the burden of a lifetime appointment. A 65 year old cardinal can serve 5-10 years and leave room for his colleagues to take control.
Where Popes Come From Is Important (But Not in the Way You Think)
Much is made of the country of origin of cardinals in line for the papacy.
I don’t think country of origin matters as much as it used to. In fact, I think the country of origin thing has been flipped on its head entirely.
The Italian peninsula (incorporating most of present-day Italy) is the big winner in this category. 217 of the 266 popes came from somewhere in and around Italy.
This is like if 43 of our 46 US presidents all came from the state of California. It would be hard to argue against California having an outsized influence on the American presidency.
For centuries, Italy had a huge influence on the election of the pope. The pope didn’t leave the confines of Vatican City between about 1800 and 1964. Before Pope John Paul II, you have to go back to 1492 to find a non-Italian pope.
The last pope before Francis born outside Europe was Gregory II in 731. Let’s put that into historical perspective. That’s only about a century after the death of Muhammad. It’s more than 800 years from the birth of Shakespeare.
Here’s the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in the English spoken in 731: “Fæder ure, ðu ðe eart on heofenum, si ðin nama gehalgod.”
Clearly, that was a different time and a different world.
And things are changing.
In just the last few decades, we’ve had an Argentinian pope, a German pope, and a Polish pope.
Due to changes in European politics, the church is pushing hard in areas outside Europe. It’s more likely than ever that the next head of the Roman Catholic Church will be from somewhere other than Europe.
In fact, I think the smart money is on a non-European to be our next pope.
How We Got Here–Is Pope Francis Resigning?
Pope Francis is nearing his tenth year in office, a few years beyond a pope’s typical service time.
Francis’ health isn’t great. He had surgery to remove part of his colon in 2021. He’s canceled a planned trip to Africa due to his ill health. His most recent appearances have all been in wheelchairs.
During a meeting with bishops in May 2022, the Holy Father motioned to his knee and said, “Instead of operating, I am going to resign.”
Francis seems to be taking a cue from Benedict XVI, giving up the office while he’s still of sound enough mind and body to make that decision.
Most recently, the pontiff called for an unusual meeting of the Pope’s Council. Crowds of cardinals have also been spotted around Vatican City, in numbers unusual outside of papal election times.
Should Pope Francis resign, the Church would be in the hunt for a new head. The church is in something of a crisis, with waning membership and scandals aplenty.
The next pope will be elected when the church’s focus is split between internal drama and big shifts in external global politics.
Conclusion: Next Pope Odds
When deciding who to back for the next pope, you have to consider the papacy’s long tradition. History is important, but so are the changes going on in the modern church. Who will the next pope be? Right now, only God (and the College of Cardinals) knows.
My pick for who will be the next pope is Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. He’s the cardinal in the best position to win. His high-level positions in the church’s high-interest fields sets him up for an easy win. If you find Cardinal Tagle at 5/1 odds or better, that’s where the smart money lies.