Speaking after his first private audience with Pope Benedict XVI, the Cardinal – who, according to Canon Law, must offer his resignation to the Pontiff when he turns 75 – said that he did not know if his time as spiritual leader of Catholics in England and Wales was nearing its end.
He said: “I will offer my resignation when I reach the age of 75 and after that I will wait for the response of the Holy Father. I leave it all in his hands, and I am quite open to whatever decision he makes then.”The Cardinal’s comments may surprise PaddyPower, the bookmakers which was so convinced that he would step down next year that it opened a book entitled “Who will be the next Archbishop of Westminster?”
Some Catholic commentators have even suggested that the Cardinal’s resignation might happen this year, following reports of his ill-health and rumours that Rome was unhappy with the leadership of the Church in England and Wales.
But the Cardinal – reportedly looking well after a busy week in which he had travelled to Russia for an important ecumenical meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II – insisted that relations with the Vatican were better than ever. “The fact of the matter is that they have never been so good,” he said, “and I speak from 30 years experience as a bishop.
Here are the odds:-
7-2 Kevin McDonald (Southwark)
9-2 Alan Hopes (Aux, Westminster)
9-2 Aidan Nichols OP
5-1 Vincent Nichols (Birmingham)
7-1 Michael Fitzgerald
8-1 Patrick Kelly (Liverpool)
8-1 Arthur Roche (Leeds)
10-1 Peter Smith (Cardiff)
12-1 Bernard Longley (Aux, Westminster)
14-1 Michael Evans (East Anglia)
14-1 Timothy Radcliffe OP
16-1 Patrick O'Donoghue (Lancaster)
20-1 John Rawsthorne (Hallam)
25-1 John Crowley (Middlesborough)