And the Sweet Sistine winner is ….

Sweet Sistine: Pope Madness winner

Sweet Sistine: Pope Madness winner

Habemus Papam!

The college of cardinals may still be undecided, but the people have spoken.

The Bishop of the Bracket, the Victorious Vicar, the People’s Pope is …. Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria. In the final round of Sweet Sistine, Onaiyekan defeated Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada 54%-46%.

Nearly 40,000 votes were cast in our Sweet Sistine tournament, which was covered by the NBC Nightly News, NPR, USA Today and many other media outlets. We owe a big thanks as well to the many readers who voted and shared Sweet Sistine with friends.

A favorite comment came from, which we’ll paraphrase as: “The guys from the Knights of Columbus fill out a bunch of brackets, but a nun always win the pool by making her picks according to vestment color.”

Now to the man of the hour…

Cardinal John Onaiyekan (Nigeria).  Photo by michael_swan via Flickr (

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria. Photo by michael_swan via Flickr (

Onaiyekan isn’t even listed in Paddy Power’s pope-betting field, which means the Irish bookmakers think the Nigerian is less likely to become pontiff than his countryman Cardinal Francis Arinze (who’s not part of the conclave because he’s over 80), Bono (also not part of the conclave) and Father Dougal Maguire (not a real person).

Still, some Vaticanistas say Onaiyekan, who was made a cardinal in 2012,  has an outside shot at the papacy. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI appointed him to several key Vatican roles, and Pax Christi International named the 69-year-old its Peace Laureate last year for working to relieve tensions between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

Reader Gerry McIntyre tells us: “A lot of us had met/knew John Onaiyekan as a young bishop in Nigeria and have followed his career. His rise in the hierarchy has not changed him significantly; he is still immensely approachable and natural and unaffected (relatively rare). And he is always pastorally motivated. He would be a vast improvement.”

We’d love to know what the rest of our readers think of Onaiyekan’s victory, so please feel free to comment below. And while you’re here, check out our other stories:

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

About the author

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke worked for Religion News Service from 2006-2013. He now co-edits CNN's Belief Blog.

About the author

Kevin Eckstrom

Kevin Eckstrom joined the Religion News Service staff in 2000 and became editor-in-chief in 2006.

About the author

David Herrera

David Herrera joined Religion News Service in 2011. He worked previously as a Web Assistant with the Religion Newswriters Association and as a Web Producer at the Detroit Free Press. He holds an M.A. from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a B.S. from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

About the author

Sally Morrow

Sally Morrow joined Religion News Service in March 2012 as Photo/Multimedia Editor. She is a photographer and editor based in Kansas City. Morrow has worked as a multimedia editor and photographer at Newsday, The Des Moines Register, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.