ON a visit to his old school, St Patrick's College, in 2008, Australian Cardinal George Pell told an inquisitive student the role of pope was not one he sought.
"Too much spiritual responsibility," he told the student.
Cardinal Pell, a long shot to succeed Pope Benedict XVI at 66-1, visited the college in March 2008 and had been asked what the odds him becoming the next pope were.
‘‘You would get very good odds and I wouldn’t suggest you invest a penny,’’ he joked.
‘‘Just because you win one or two country races doesn’t make you a favourite for the Melbourne Cup.’’
So, who will be the next pope?
Among those tipped as possible candidates to succeed Pope Bendict XVI are Canadian Marc Ouellet and the Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola, though some analysts have said they are likely to be considered as not charismatic enough to revive faith amid rising secularism.
Previous hot tickets Peter Erdo, from Hungary, and the pope's Austrian friend Christoph Schoenborn, have recently dropped in favour, while American Timothy Dolan is increasingly tipped for his mediatic skills -- key in helping the Vatican overhaul its image in modern society following a damaging wave of clerical child abuse scandals.
Among the potential candidates for the first African pope are Peter Turkson of Ghana -- the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace who is considered a progressive candidate -- and Nigerian John Onaiyekan.
William Hill bookmakers in London on Monday tipped 80-year-old Francis Arinze of Nigeria as their favourite to take over from Benedict, with odds of 2-1, followed by Turkson at 5-2.
Frontrunners in Latin America - which boasts the largest number of practicing Catholics in the world - are Claudio Hummes and Joao Braz de Aviz.
Cardinal Pell barely rates a mention at odds of 66-1 but he will travel to Vatican City to take part in the election of the new pope.
Cardinal Pell was born and educated in Ballarat before rising to the highest position in the Australian Catholic Church.
June 8, 1941 George Pell was born in Ballarat.
1949-1959 Educated at St Patrick's College
December 16, 1966 Ordained a Catholic priest with the Diocese of Ballarat by Cardinal Agagianian in St Peter's Basiilica, Rome, after studying for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Werribee and Propaganda Fide College, Rome.
May 21, 1987 Ordained an Auxillery Bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Scala by Archbishop Sir Frank Little in St Patrick's Cathedral.
July 16, 1996 Pope John Paul II announces Dr Pell's appointment as seventh Metropolitan Archbishop of Melbourne.
March 26, 2001 Pope John Paul II appoints Dr Pell the eighth Metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney
August 2002 Investigated by the church for accusations of child sex abuse. He was later cleared.
December 28, 2003 Elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II, who created him Cardinal Priest of the Church of Saint Maria Domenica Mazzarello in Rome.
April 2005 Cardinal Pell takes part in the Conclave of 115 Cardinal Electors which elected His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as the successor to Pope John Paul II.