Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Pope Benedictat his weekly audience in the Vatican March 10, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said Friday it had cut the odds on Pope Benedict resigning after allegations of child abuse by priests in Germany gripped the Roman Catholic Church.

Ireland’s biggest bookmaker, which has branches in Britain as well as Catholic Ireland, said it had cut the odds from 12 to 1 to 3 to 1 following a “cascade of bets.”

The bookie also said it had cut the odds on Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze becoming the next pontiff to 4 to 1, after what it called a significant gamble. The firm said Arinze was now the clear favourite.

“The dark clouds of clerical abuse scandals show no sign of abating and recent reports from Germany are surely a little too close to home for the pope,” the company said in a statement.