News / Africa

New Pope's Race Unimportant, Africans Say

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he arrives for a weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Oct. 3, 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he arrives for a weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Oct. 3, 2012.
Nancy Palus
Among the cardinals who could succeed Pope Benedict XVI are two prominent Africans - both from West Africa and both seen as strong contenders. 

Africa is one of the few parts of the world where Catholicism is on the rise, and some think it is time for a non-European and possibly black African pope.  But for many African Catholics, the new pope’s race is far less important than competence and conviction in leading the Church.  
 
Even in 2005 when Pope Benedict was elected, Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria was seen as a possible successor to John Paul II.  Arinze, now 80, is again considered a strong candidate as is 64-year-old Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana.
 
Click to EnlargeClick to Enlarge
x
Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
The latest Vatican statistics show that between 2009 and 2010 on most continents the number of Catholics dropped - increasing only in southeast Asia and in Africa.  The number of seminarians has also dropped in Europe and the Americas, but has risen in Asia and Africa.
 
The pope's resignation triggered anew the question of whether it is time for a non-European pope - notably a black African, after centuries of European popes, mostly Italian.  But Catholics in Senegal and Ghana say they see the leader’s race as largely irrelevant.
 
“For us in the Catholic Church it does not play any role at all and it should not play any role at all," said Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, archbishop of Accra, the capital of Ghana. "The word Catholic means that all cultures, all races, all peoples are united in one body so it shouldn’t play a role whether the person is black, white, or yellow.”
 
Cardinal Théodore Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, will be among the cardinals to elect the next pope. Speaking to reporters on Monday he said it’s not the pontiff’s ethnicity that counts but his strength and conviction to lead the Church.
 
He said he has his doubts that the moment has come for a black African pope.
 
Pope Frontrunners for Now
(Source: Reuters)

While there are no official candidates, here are the "papabili,'' potential popes, most frequently mentioned recently. The list is in alphabetical order.

  • Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil, 65) brought fresh air to the  Vatican department for religious congregations when he took over in 2011. He supports the preference for the poor in Latin America's liberation theology, but not the excesses of its advocates.
  • Timothy Dolan, (USA, 62) became the voice of U.S. Catholicism after being named archbishop of New York in 2009. His humour and dynamism have impressed the Vatican, where both are often missing.
  • Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68) is effectively the Vatican's top staff director as head of the Congregation for Bishops. He once said becoming pope "would be a nightmare.''
  • Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy, 70) has been Vatican culture  minister since 2007 and represents the Church to the worlds of art, science, culture and even to atheists.
  • Leonardo Sandri (Argentina, 69) is a "transatlantic'' figure born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents. He held the third-highest Vatican post as its chief of staff in 2000-2007.
  • Odilo Pedro Scherer (Brazilia, 63) ranks as Latin America's strongest candidate. He's Archbishop of Sao Paolo, largest diocese in the largest Catholic country.
  • Christoph Schoenborn (Austria, 67) is a former student of Pope Benedict with a pastoral touch the pontiff lacks. The Vienna archbishop has ranked as papal material since editing the Church catechism in the 1990s.
  • Angelo Scola (Italy, 71) is archbishop of Milan, a springboard to the papacy, and is many Italians' bet to win. An expert on bioethics, he also knows Islam as head of a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding.
  • Luis Tagle (Philippines, 55) has a charisma often compared to that of the late Pope John Paul. He is also close to Pope Benedict after working with him at the International Theological Commission.
  • Peter Turkson (Ghana, 64) is the top African candidate. Head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau, he is spokesman for the Church's social conscience and backs world financial reform.
He says this question has been with us for a long time now.  "Is the Catholic Church ready for a black African leader?  Is the world ready for a black African pope?  I’ve got my doubts," he says.  "It’s true - we’ve got the case of Barack Obama."  Still, he says, given how Africans are generally seen and treated, it is not very likely.
 
Dominique Basse, a member of the Church of Uganda’s Martyrs in Dakar, says having a black African pope would certainly enhance Africa’s place in the world. " It’s like when a president who’s of your party comes to power," he says, "it enhances your group.  But what’s most important is that the new Pope be able to help us all grow in our faith and be able to strengthen the Catholic community."
 
On Monday as parishioners gathered for a daily mass at the Church of Uganda’s Martyrs, a few chatting about Pope Benedict’s resignation said they saw the decision as wise and noble.
 
But for some, Basse said, Africa’s culture of chiefdom remains a strong force, and they were put off by the pope’s move.
 
He says for some the decision is troubling, provoking questions about what might have been behind it. Basse says some people are still quite attached to the concept of a chief and the chief does not step down.
 
At the second special assembly of bishops on Africa, in 2009, Pope Benedict talked about the role of the church as the continent faces religious fundamentalism, poverty, injustice, and war.  He said part of the church’s calling is to reconcile different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.
 
Bishop Palmer-Buckle of Accra says while Africa has particular challenges and it is important to discuss them in such assemblies, the Catholic Church is not about serving only certain “constituencies”.
 
“I don’t think that’s what the Catholic Church is about," he says.  "The pope is definitely going to be a universal spiritual leader for the whole world.  And he must be as concerned about Africa as he would be concerned about Europe as he would be concerned about Latin America or Asia.”
 
Pope Benedict XVI will step down on February 28.  Cardinals from around the world will gather in Rome where the process to elect his successor will begin the following day.

Photo Gallery: Pope Benedict Resigns

  • Pope Benedict greets the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 19, 2005.
  • Pope Benedict blesses a baby as he rides around St. Peter's Square to hold his last general audience at the Vatican Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict appears on a giant screen in a packed St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during his last general audience, February 27, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict arrives to attend a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome, February 8, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict waves as he arrives to lead the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 18, 2012.
  • Pope Benedict wears a sombrero, a traditional Mexican hat, while being driven through the crowd before officiating a mass in Silao, Mexico, March 25, 2012.
  • Pope Benedict holds his cross as he leads a solemn mass in Zagreb, Croatia, June 5, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict visits the Ardeatine Caves Memorial in Rome, Italy, March 27, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict leaves after an audience with Vatican-accredited diplomats at the Vatican, January 10, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 12, 2009.
  • Pope Benedict waves to the crowd gathered in Saint Peter's square during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican, May 16, 2010.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, July 10, 2009.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: andrewdoull from: buxton
February 13, 2013 8:40 AM
i think the next pope should be from the middle east who know how to handle the middle east and others and like to thank the german pope for eveything he as done and trying to make the world a better place

by: Deng Baak from: Kampala
February 12, 2013 12:08 PM
There`s no problem in Pope resigning as long as it`s in good faith,and any person from any country can take over from where he stopped.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs