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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid