For my money, the Italians have always had a leg up on the rest of the world as far as where Pontiffs come from.

The Vatican is in Rome, and much of what transpires within its walls in conducted in Italian.

Therefore knowing how to speak Italian fluently is a prerequisite.

Hence, they’d never pick me, were I to be in the running. My coarse Neapolitan would automatically disqualify me.

However, this time around, the Church has a number of Cardinals from various places that could easily be in the running.

Italy’s Angelo Cardinal Scola is 2-1 to be the next pontiff, overtaking the previous front-runner, Ghana’s Peter Cardinal Turkson, who is at 4-1, according to Irish bookie Paddy Power.

Rory Scott, a spokesman for the legal bookmaker, said the lengthy deliberations among the cardinals last week worked in Scola’s favor, because the formal conclave this week is now likely to move faster.

“A quicker conclave would be more likely to produce a status quo, continuity Pope — a European, an Italian,” Scott said. “Scola would certainly provide a smooth transition from Pope Benedict XVI.”

Italy’s Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (5-1 odds) and Brazil’s Odilo Cardinal Scherer (7-1) round out the top four.

But Scola has “all necessary qualities — (he’s) communicative, and has a pastoral background,” Scott said.

New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan remains a long shot at 20-1 odds.

I’d love to see Dolan picked as the next Pope.

He seems like a nice guy!

He has an eternally happy disposition, which, while I know isn’t necessary for the job of Pope, still reminds us of the always optimistic and congenial John Paul II.

Then there’s the representative from Ghana, Peter Cardinal Turkson. Choosing him would acknowledge the growing influence of Catholicism in Africa.

Other candidates hail from Brazil and the Philippines.

Once all is said and done, I’d still put my money on one of the Italians. I’m sure Vegas is already taking action on who and where the next Pope will come from.