— After Pope Benedict the 16th announced he will retire later this month, Nigerian clergy are saying God, not people, chooses the leader of the Catholic church. However, many people in Nigeria think its about time for an African pope.
Outside Holy Trinity Church, one of the Nigerian capital’s most influential Catholic parishes, Reverend Mathew Maleek says talk about the nationality of the next pope is a political question, not a religious question.
“The church of God has continued to survive by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, it is the spirit of God that chooses who he wants. It’s not like politics," he said.
Maleek said Pope Benedict should be praised for stepping down gracefully in his advanced age of 85.
At a cyber café on the other side of town, Emmanuel Iweka, a contractor and a Catholic, agrees that God’s choice for pope cannot be wrong. But, he says, it seems like it could be time for an African pope. He says Africans pray to take leadership roles in the Church the same way they once prayed to take leadership roles in football.
“That’s what we are praying for. We are praying for that. We pray that one day it may come, just like what happened in South Africa World Cup last time ," he said.
Iweka would be proud, he says, if 80-year-old Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian, becomes the next pope. Cardinal Arinze was considered a top contender in 2005, when Benedict was elected, and he now has Pope Benedict’s old job as Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, in Italy.