Betting is in abeyance. A few shrewd people persuaded Paddy Power to open a book on the succession to Cardinal Murphy O'Connor last autumn and managed to get their money on. However, nothing has changed at all in 2007, as those who want to place a bet wait for the official announcement that the Cardinal's resignation has (or has not) been accepted, and that announcement won't come before HE's 75th birthday in August.
In principle, the Apostolic Nuncio is the person charged with taking soundings, and advising Rome on who should be nominated for Westminster once the See is declared vacant. Realising that I knew little about Archbishop Sainz Muñoz (other than that he is "always welcome" at Eccleston Square) I asked a leading Spanish journalist, who specialises in ecclesiastical affairs, for an indication of which way the Nuncio's advice might go, and how it might be received. The answer was interesting (I have cut out a sentence which reflects on the leadership of the Church in England and Wales):
"Yo creo que el arzobispo de Westminster no lo decide el nuncio. Esos cargos tan importantes se deciden en Roma. Y supongo que el Papa ya tiene claro quien va a ser el sucesor de Murphy O'Connor que efectivamente en agosto cumple los setenta y cinco años. (...)
Efectivamente es un hombre de Casaroli. Pero como le digo no creo vaya a ser la persona decisiva para nombrar al nuevo arzobispo de Westminster."
"The Archbishop of Westminster is not chosen by the Nuncio. Posts as important as this are settled in Rome. And I imagine that the Pope is already clear about who Murphy O'Connor's successor will be once, in August, he has his 75th birthday. (...)
He (Sainz Muñoz) is basically one of Casaroli's men. But, as I say, I don't think he will have a decisive say in naming the new Archbishop of Westminster."
This puts the appointment of Bishop Kenney as Auxiliary in Birmingham into a new perspective: Rome is choosing the Bishops of England and Wales. Perhaps the succession in Middlesbrough will give us a further clue about what might be going to happen.