Irish bookmakers today put Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the leading contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.

At 5-2 odds early Monday, someone betting two euros ($2.68 Cdn) on Ouellet replacing Benedict would win five euros ($6.70) if the Quebecer were elected at the papal conclave, Bloomberg News reported after Pope Benedict announced Monday he is resigning end of February for health reasons.

Later in the day, the Canadian's odds stretched to 3-1, paying six euros ($8.10) on a two-euro bet.

The Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power's odds suggest that the next most likely contenders are African Cardinals Francis Arinze of Nigeria at 4-1 and Peter Turkson of Ghana at 7-2.

Betting on elections and other outcomes has a long history in Ireland and the U.K., where wagering has gone far beyond sporting events.

The longest shot on Paddy Power's papal-successor list Monday was rock star activist Bono.


Bono: a long shot for pope. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

He was followed by Rev. Dougal McGuire, a fictional simpleton in the British TV series Father Ted who has only a vague understanding of Roman Catholicism.

Both were given 1,000-1 odds of becoming pope.

Ouellet, Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops, has experience in Latin America and holds a senior position with the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, which oversees the selection of some bishops.

While candidates do not campaign for the papal job, and Ouellet expressed outright reluctance in 2011, he is, at age 68, among the younger potential candidates.