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Betting under way

Whether the college picks a younger pope or not, Benedict’s resignation in the face of ill health also was seen Monday as precedent-setting and important because modern medical technology is likely to make the occasion of a frail but alive pope more common than before.

“For the century to come, I think that none of Benedict’s successors will feel morally obliged to remain until their death,” Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said.

According to news reports, two cardinals from Africa have emerged as top contenders for the papacy:

• Cardinal Francis Arinze. Born in Nigeria, Cardinal Arinze, 80, has been the bishop of Velletri-Segni, a cluster of Roman suburbs, since 2005 — when he succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI.

• Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson. Born in Ghana, the 64-year-old cardinal is the archbishop of his native country and is a member of councils focused on evangelization, worship and Catholic education.

About 176 million people in Africa are Catholic, nearly one-third of all Christians across the continent, according to a December 2011 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

British bookmakers offered odds on candidates to replace Benedict, with Cardinals Turkson and Arinze taking lead positions. Speculation turned to other likely contenders among the College of Cardinals, including:

• Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The head of the Vatican’s office for bishops was born in Quebec 68 years ago, and has been a cardinal since 2003.

• Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Born in the Philippines, he is the archbishop of Manila and 56 years old. He has been a cardinal since 2012.

• Cardinal Leonardo Sandri. Born in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Sandri, 69, heads the Vatican’s Asian churches department.

The procedures

Next month, the College of Cardinals will hold a conclave, a secret meeting in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. There will be four votes per day — two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.

All cardinals younger than 80 are allowed to vote, and the conclave must begin 15 to 20 days after Benedict’s resignation takes effect Feb. 28. There are 118 cardinals younger than 80 and thus eligible to vote. The group includes 67 who were appointed by Benedict. However, four of them will turn 80 before the end of March. Depending on the date of the conclave, they may or may not be allowed to vote.

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