Betting on the next Pope is illegal in the US — why? — but nothing stops the Irish. Angelo Scola, an Italian, is in the lead. In fact three of the top six contenders are Italian. Close behind Scola is Peter Turkson, from Ghana. Two Americans are in there, too, long shots, Timothy Dolan from NY and Sean O’Malley from Boston. O’Malley’s a pomp-hating Franciscan, so I don’t give much for his chances, and Dolan hasn’t been a Cardinal a year yet (and would hate to spend the rest of his life in Rome, away from his Mets and Yankees). Turkson is the closest thing this current crop of Cardinals has to a crusader for the poor, though his anti-condom stance is hard to not shudder at, given the devastation of Africa by AIDS. Personally my money’s on the other African, Francis Arinze from Nigeria. An African would be a signal to the third world that the Church is taking its non-European faithful seriously; but while Turkson’s only 64, Arinze’s 80. His election would mean conservative Europeans would be assured of having a chance to take the job back relatively soon. Turkson would be much bigger a commitment to the third world. Is the Church ready for that?