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

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid