An African in the vatican may be the only thing more shocking to Catholics than Pope Benedict XVI February 11 resignation.
Catholicism is growing more rapidly in Africa than any other region in the world. More than half of all Catholics now live in Africa and Latin America. Pope Benedict himself recently said that Africa is “the spiritual lungs of humanity.” A pope from Africa is not out of the question.
A majority of Cardinals in the Papal Concalve are still European. Every man in the room is a contender for the seat. The choice for them will be between keeping the church on the same conservative drift that it has been on since Benedict came to power or will they seek a new voice and a new direction for the church.
A possible new direction wold be electing a leader from the third world. A man who is intimately aware of the spread of HIV and the good that can done by loosening up some Catholic dogma.
At least for now, outside of the conclave, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York believes that anything is possible. He remebers when it was assumed that the pope would always be from Italy. Then in 1978 the world was rocked by the assention of Karol Wojtyla of Poland.
The catholic church in Africa is tightly woven into the community. It is the place people go when they need help. The church is trusted more than governments. Some believe that an African under the mitre might be able to bring some of that goodwill back to European and American perishes were the church is loosing believers.
Two men’s names are frequently mentioned as possible successors to the pontif’s seat.
Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria has long been held in high esteem by the Catholic church. As Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Devine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacrements, he is currently number four in the hierarchy of the church. He was first mentioned as papible in 1991. In 2003 the Guardian newspaper devoted a whole article to his qualifications when the church was considering a successor to John Paul II.
Bloomberg news reports that Leonardo Boff a Brazilian theologian who is in his 70’s and has been an observer of the church fior many of those years, thinks that Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency in the Unites States my pave the may for a black man to be the pope. He is a strong supporter of Cardinal Turkson.
Boff goes on to say that a Cardinal from the third world would make changes to church doctrine that would modernize it. Making the Catholic faith more accessible to more people.
The Bloomberg article also notes that an Irish gambling agency puts Cardinal Turkson in the number two spot behind the Cardinal of Milan.
Regardless of where the next pope comes from the real question will be how will he lead? If the next pope refuses to accept modern norms of sexuality, continues to ignore the crimes committed by high ranking clergy, and turns a blind eye to contraception’s ability to protect against AIDS and other diseases it will not matter what color his skin is.