As the College of Cardinals gathers in Rome to elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, speculation is rife about who will be the next man to steer the ship of the Catholic Church through troubled times and also about how his style may differ from that of his sometimes controversial predecessors. Bookies across the world are quoting odds. The leading contenders are the following:
Cardinal Giancarlo Correzzano (8/1): The Archbishop of Bologna is a doctrinal conservative whose grand passion in life is church music. A firm opponent of gay marriage, he has conducted a large number of boys' choirs in the great cathedrals of Italy in a career that saw him revive the castrati tradition as he moved from parish to parish no less than 12 times at intervals of two to three years.
Cardinal Giulio di Santo (10/1): Elevated only recently to the hot seat at Milan, this doctrinal conservative is regarded as a potential compromise choice. He lacks charisma but is an able administrator and, in the words of one observer, 'a consummate Vatican insider'. A firm opponent of gay marriage, Di Santo has been described as 'a safe pair of hands' by most, though not all of those who know him well.
Cardinal Joseph Acheampong (5/1 F): Could this be the time for an African Pope? Nigerian-born Acheamoong is a renowned preacher but a doctrinal conservative whose hard-line approach on matters of sexual morality could split some parts of the congregation. A firm opponent of gay marriage, he has not hesitated to lay down the line to his flock in Lagos.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Fontaine (12/1): The Archbishop of Reims is widely seen as a stalking horse for the modernising elements within the Church, though doctrinally he is highly conservative. If elected, he is likely to bring his long-time assistant, the flamboyant Charles Guegnot, with him to Rome. Fontaine taught theology at the Sorbonne for many years, where he was a firm opponent of gay marriage.
Cardinal Gerald Sweeney (20/1): Ireland has never provided a Pope before and some believe the witty, urbane and doctrinally conservative Archbishop of Cork could be the man. A seminarian for nearly 15 years, Sweeney left behind a reputation as a firm disciplinarian yet a kindly, avuncular figure who would always find time for a private chat with any troubled young priests in his care. He is understood to be a firm opponent of gay marriage.
Hat tip to whoever did the 'seminal' gag.