As Pope Benedict XVI prepares his exit, the natural question observers are asking is: Who’s going to replace the pontiff? Speculation is already running rampant, with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power placing online bets on the results of the impending conclave. While there’s no definitive way to tell who will inevitably be selected by the cardinals to succeed Benedict, some key figures are being highlighted as good fits for the job.

This morning, TheBlaze reported that, throughout the church’s recent history, papal resignations are virtually non-existent. In fact, Benedict is the first pope in 600 years to abdicate the position and the first known Catholic leader in history to do so for health reasons. Whoever is chosen (we highlight the complex process here) will end up serving with the papal predecessor still living and remaining involved, at least to some degree, in the church — yet another factor that serves as an anomaly.

Will One of These Men By the Next Pope? | Timothy Dolan, Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Peter Turkson

Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing stands near Pope Benedict XVI during a mass given to mark the 900th anniversary of the official recognition of the Order of Malta by Pope Pascal II on February 9, 2013 in the Vatican City, Italy. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI addressed over 4,000 members of the Order of Malta who have travelled from across the world to Rome to celebrate this event. The mass was presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Holy See.  Credit: Getty Images 

Among the Catholic leaders who are being pinpointed by media as potential replacements are Canadian Cardinal Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, among others. These options, alone, show the geographic and ethnic diversity present within the potential pool. But Paddy Power lists many others who the company believes could be under consideration. Here’s what the group says of some of the top contenders’ chances of being selected:

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is 5/2 market leader to be elected as the next Pope. He is Prefect of the congregation for Bishops which is seen as a powerful position within the Vatican, it seems. According to one of the Paddy Power lads who has his finger on the Catholic pulse, Cardinal Marc has experience of working in Latin in America, is a friend of Benedict and is apparently outgoing and charismatic. [...]

Cardinal Peter Turkson is 7/2 and speaks six languages. The Ghanaian can understand Latin and Greek and has seen plenty of support early doors.

Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria at 7/2. If either Cardinal Francis Arinze or Cardinal Peter Turkson are elected it would be the first time in history there would be a black Pope.

Early steamers in the market are Cardinal Keith O’Brien from Scotland who has been trimmed from 40/1 into 33/1, and Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who has seen his price slashed from 150/1 in to 80/1. 

While many of these names may seem unfamiliar to you (after all, these men are Catholic leaders from across the globe), we’ll take a brief look at at least a few of the key men who are mentioned above and in ongoing media speculation.

Will One of These Men By the Next Pope? | Timothy Dolan, Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Marc Ouellet holds a mass in celebration of The Pilgrimage of the Holy Robe at the Cathedral of St Peter on April 13, 2012 in Trier, Germany. The Pilgrimage of the Holy Robe runs from April 13 to May 13, during which hundreds of thousands pilgrims are expected to view the Holy Robe. The robe, said to have been worn by Jesus Christ leading up to his crucifixion, is housed by the cathedral and rarely displayed for public viewing. Credit: Getty Images 

Oullet, 68, is the Archbishop of Quebec. Having expressed a hesitation at prospects of being elected pope in the past, it’s unclear whether he would accept the position (it is permissible to decline if one does not feel called to the papacy). Considering that he speaks six languages, Oullet would certainly be an attractive candidate. After all, he’d be able to communicate with a diverse subset of the global populace (see his Business Insider (BI) profile here).

Then there’s Turkson, 64, from Ghana who serves as the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. As BI notes, he’s well-liked among the cardinals, a rising star, an excellent communicator and the face of an emerging church populace in Africa. With Europe and the West the central focus of Catholicism, his election would mean that eyes are also being set on other areas of potential growth across the globe (read more about him here).

Will One of These Men By the Next Pope? | Timothy Dolan, Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson (Photo Credit: AP)

Of course, Oullet and Turkson are only two of the many options for potential replacements. In fact, BI has profiled 17 men who could be chosen for the top spot. Among the names not previously mentioned in this article is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the 63-year-old Archbishop of New York. Last year, TheBlaze explored whether Dolan could become the first American pope. While such prospects are entirely possible, he isn’t currently faring well on Paddy Power’s web site (however, that’s not indicative of actual success or failure). 

While BI doesn’t weigh too fervently either way, the outlet does mention that an American in a heavily-Italian Vatican would be a potentially-bad mix. This would thus be a strike against Dolan’s chances in the eyes of some critics.

Visit BI for all 17 profiles on potential papal replacements. TheBlaze will continue to cover these prospects as we move closer to the conclave.

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