bettors weave their guesses

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story about the papal tailors in Rome in yesterday’s World pages incorrectly stated Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s position. He is archbishop emeritus of Milan.)

ROME With the conclave of cardinals that will elect the next pope set to gather in secret starting today, a few well worn aphorisms in Italian are once again on the lips of this nation of Vatican watchers.

And within such banter from the borgo, or neighborhood, in the shadow of the Vatican’s walls to the broad avenues of the shopping district is a strongly held belief among Italians that trying to guess who will be the next successor to St. Peter is a fool’s game.

From one generation to the next, Italians have been around the process long enough to know it is a notoriously difficult result to forecast. But that doesn’t stop Italians and many others, from sapatos converse online betting parlors to over caffeinated media pundits, from rolling the dice in the pope sweepstakes.

The Gammarelli family, whose members have been the personal tailors to the pope for more than two centuries, understands the unpredictability that is woven into the rituals of the Sistine Chapel conclaves, in which eligible cardinals select successive popes.

At the beginning of every conclave since the end of the 18th century, the goedkope converse schoenen Vatican has assigned Gammarelli: Ecclesiastical Tailors, as the family shop sign says on a side street not far from the Pantheon, the task of preparing vestments for the newly elected pope without having any idea who or what shape he might be.

Because the pope must be vested and presented orbi et urbi, Latin for ”to the world and the city” within one half hour of his acceptance of the cardinals’ decision to name him the Holy Father of the Catholic Church, the Gammarelli family has to give itself options.

And, so, by tradition, they stitch three sets of vestments, sizes small, medium and large. Each includes a set of two white cassocks, a pair of red, leather converse shoes uk, and one white, watered silk zuchetta, or skull cap.

”It’s very hard to guess, and as far as we know we have only guessed right once in history, and that was John XXIII,” said Filippo Gammarelli, 63, who manages the shop. ”He was very popular and quite large, so we made the large cassock just that much larger.

”This time, we are not even trying to guess,” he added, the images of the seven popes they have vested staring down at him from a wall of photographs and official papal decrees, with signatures and stamps, framed on the wall to prove the shop’s standing.

The Gammarellis may be hedging their bets, but many are eager to put their money where their mouth is.

The company is reported in the Irish media to have taken in well over $1.5 million in the last two weeks in bets over who will be the next pope.

And the action has been all over the place on the so called papabile, or ”pope able” cardinals.

Last week, Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian, was the leading favorite at 3 1 odds. But by Friday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who headed the doctrinal office under John Paul II, clicked to the top of the board with 3 1 odds, and Arinze slipped to fifth place with 8 1 odds.

France’s Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger surprisingly took second place with 9 2 odds. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Venice was posted third at 5 1. And the one the media pundits seem to favor, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, held fourth place at 7 1.

Betting on the spiritual leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics may indeed be a bit irreverent, but it is a time honored tradition. Betting on the next pope was so popular in the 16th century among Roman bookies that it resulted in a 1591 papal bull forbidding Catholics from betting on a conclave.

One thing is for sure: When the conclave gathered in 1978, few, if any, were putting money on Karol Wojtyla, an obscure, polyglot Slav who served as the archbishop of Krakow behind the Iron Curtain in Poland. He, of course, came out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and was introduced to the world as Pope John Paul II.