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Two Africans Among Likely Candidates for Next Pope

  • VOA News

 Francis Arinze, 80, of Nigeria, (left) and Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana, (right) are candidates to replace Pope Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis Arinze, 80, of Nigeria, (left) and Peter Turkson, 64, of Ghana, (right) are candidates to replace Pope Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Reaction in Africa to the resignation of Pope Benedict is focused, in part, on whether his successor could come from the continent.

Two West African cardinals, Peter Turkson of Ghana and Francis Arinze of Nigeria, are spoken of as among top candidates to replace Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Bookmakers in Britain named both men as likely favorites in the upcoming election by the church's College of Cardinals, along with Marc Ouellet of Canada.

Cardinal Turkson is 64 years old, was born in Ghana, and is former archbishop of Cape Coast, in Ghana's central region. He is now based at the Vatican, and serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Turkson sparked a controversy at a gathering of bishops last October, when he screened a video called "Muslim Demographics," which claims Muslims will eventually take over parts of Europe because of immigration and high birth rates.

The church distanced itself from the video, saying it does not express the view of the Vatican.

Cardinal Arinze is 80 years old and hails from southern Nigeria, where he spent 18 years as archbishop in the city of Onitsha.

He is known for engaging in interreligious dialogue, and in 1999 received an award from the International Council of Christians and Jews for "outstanding achievement in inter-faith relations."

A growing percentage of the Catholic Church's members come from Africa and South America, and many analysts say cardinals could be ready to select the church's next leader from one of those continents.

If either Turkson or Arinze were elected, he would become the first non-European leader in more than 1,800 years.

An earlier report mistakenly stated that if either Turkson or Arinze were elected, this would be the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that a non-European would be leader; it would be the first non-European leader in more than 1,800 years.

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