Election of successor steeped in history

John Paul II with Billy-Bob Clinton

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

The death of Pope John Paul 2 has had a global impact for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

His 26-year reign makes him the third longest-serving pope in history and for anyone under the age of 30, the only one ever known.

A full list of all the popes through the ages can be found at Wikipedia, along with information about their lives.

There have been reports that his final word was, fittingly, amen and speculation about just where in the world the next pope will come from.

John Paul 2′s papacy has been one of the most public and open, because of both his own preferences and because he lived and died in the media age. How the election of his successor happens is steeped in history and totally fascinating.

As always, the New York Times website has a comprehensive range of stories about the pope, along with some special interactive media features.

Free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has an explanation of exactly what it is to be the pope, as does New Advent’s Catholic encyclopaedia.

Other sites that have biographies and info on probably the most recognised man in the world include the Unofficial Pope John Paul site, Celebrate the Legacy and http://www.popejohnpaul.com/.

Time magazine selected him as one of the 100 most important people of the last century.

If you fancy your luck with a little flutter, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is prepared to take your bet. He’s also running a book on the likely name chosen by the next pope, with John Paul being the hot favourite.

He’s obviously had a change of heart since the BBC reported in December 2002 that the list of betting options for the next pope included Father Dougal McGuire of Craggy Island (from the TV comedy Father Ted) as a 1000-1 outsider.