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How Would Africans Feel about A Black Pope ?

Following the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI, the debate on his succession almost immediately took over public opinion platforms. In particular, Africans, on the basis of the fastest growing contingent of Catholics on their continent, began to put forward the names of their favorites among the 18 cardinal Africans who are part of the College of Cardinals and who will meet in conclave to elect the new pope.

Card. Francis Arinze

His Eminence Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, among the favourites heading into the Conclave. Photo by Padre Mimmo Spatuzzi on commons.wikimedia.org

There are contrasting views of African opinion on the origin of the future Pope. On the lecongolais.cd website, Eugène Kaly introduces his favourite one [fr]— Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze:

Il a été ordonné cardinal par le pape Jean Paul II, lors du Consistoire du 25 mai 1985 avec le titre de cardinal-diacre de San Giovanni Pigna.

Il est ensuite élevé au rang de cardinal-prêtre le 29 janvier 1996, puis cardinal-évêque Velletri-Segni le 25 avril 2005, titre porté par Joseph Ratzinger avant son élection au siège pontifical…. plusieurs observateurs avait prononcé son nom comme successeur possible à Jean-Paul II, ce qui aurait fait de lui le premier pape noir.

Le cardinal allemand Joseph Ratzinger devenu Benoît XVI a pour sa part déclaré avant son élection que “l’élection d’un pape africain serait un signe positif pour toute la chrétienté”.

During the consistory of May 25, 1985, Pope John Paul II ordained him Cardinal-Deacon of San Giovanni della Pigna.

On January 29, 1996, he was then elevated to the rank of cardinal priest, then on April 25, 2005, to Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni—the title was carried by Joseph Ratzinger before he was elected pope…. a number of observers had named him as a possible successor to John Paul II, which would make him the first black pope.

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, declared before his election that “the election of a black pope would send a good sign to the entire Christian world.”

On the guinnetime.com blog, Amadou Touré feels very differently about this [fr]. In fact, he thinks that:

Le cardinal Robert Sarah (67 ans), ancien archevêque de Conakry en Guinée, est un pasteur dans l'âme, très orthodoxe. Benoît XVI l'a choisi en 2010 pour coordonner toute l'action humanitaire de l'Église.Quant au cardinal Ghanéen, [Peter Turkson, 64 ans] il est aussi un proche de Benoît XVI, qui lui a confié en 2009 le prestigieux conseil pontifical Justice et Paix, ainsi que le poste-clé de rapporteur général du synode africain.

Cardinal Robert Sarah (67 years old), former Archibishop of Conakry in Guinea, is a pastor at heart—very orthodox. Benedict XVI chose him in 2010 to coordinate all of the Church's humanitarian actions. As for the Ghanaian Cardinal [Peter Turkson, 64 years old], he was also close to Benedict XVI, who entrusted him in 2009 with the prestigious Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, as well as the key position of General Rapporteur of the African Synod.

On his blog on lemessagerdafrique.mondoblog.org, Beninese Boukari Ouédraogo believes [fr] that:

A peine le pape Benoit XVI a-t-il démissionné que de nombreuses personnes en particulier les médias se posent la question sur la couleur de la peau de son successeur. Sans être opposé à ce qu’un pape noir soit élu à ce poste au Vatican, nous pensons que le débat  ne doit pas se poser à ce niveau. Il faut plutôt chercher à savoir quel sera le profil ou les compétences du successeur de Benoit XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI has just resigned and many people, particularly the media, are wondering about the skin colour of his successor. Without opposing the fact that a black gets elected to this position in the Vatican, we think that the debate must not reach this level. Instead, the Benedict XVI successor's profile and skills must be considered.

 On carrapide.com, Arona Gallo Diouf wrote [fr]:

 Une fois retombées l’émotion et la surprise qui ont suivi l’annonce de l’abdication de Benoît XVI, beaucoup de fidèles et d’observateurs de la vie de l’Eglise catholique s’interrogent sur le nom du possible successeur du pape démissionnaire. Les spéculations vont bon train, plusieurs noms sont cités. L’Eglise catholique aura un nouveau pape au plus tard à Pâques, car un conclave sera organisé le mois prochain, entre deux et trois semaines après la démission de Benoît XVI qui prendra effet le 28 février.

Plusieurs fidèles catholiques souhaitent cependant que le nouveau pape soit originaire d’Afrique noire et d’Amérique du sud.

As soon as the emotion and surprise following Benedict XVI's resignation announcement died down, many faithfuls and observers of the life of the Catholic Church questioned the name of the possible successor of the resigning pope. The speculation is well under way—a number of names are cited. The Catholic Church will have a new pope before Easter, because a conclave will be organized next month, between two and three weeks after the resignation of Benedict XVI , which will take effect on February 28.A number of faithful Catholics, however, want the new pope to be from North Africa or South America.

A reader commented on the Succession de Benoit XVI : Et si c’était un africain! [fr] article, which was published on the Senegalese website, as follows:

Il n'y a pas de “bataille pour la succession du Pape Benoît XVI” démissionnaire. Que le Pape soit africain, européen, asiatique, américain, etc, n'a pas d'importance: qu'il témoigne partout et toujours de la Parole, de la Bonne Nouvelle.

C'est l'Esprit Saint de Dieu qui guidera le choix du nouveau pontife: pas de candidature, pas de campagne électorale ni de programme.

There's no “battle for the succession of the resigning Pope Benedict XVI.” Whether the Pope is African, European, Asian, American, etc. has no importance; what's important is that he always spreads the word of God and the Good News everywhere.It's the Holy Spirit of God that will guide the choice of the new pontiff: not candidacy, not electoral campaigns nor program campaigns.

Many readers have commented on the article, Vatican : l'heure a-t-elle sonné pour l'élection d'un pape noir ? [fr], published on February 13 in the Pan-African magazine, Jeune Afrique. Here are two sample comments.

Gabwè-kouamé thinks [fr] that:

la priorité pour les Africains c'est d'avoir des-Dirigeants(politiques et-réligieux:intègres et-modèles!!; pas d'un-Pape à Tout-prix!!.

the priority for Africans is to have honest and ideal leaders (political and religious)!!; not a Pope at all costs!!

As for Apa, he thinks [fr] that:

Le plus important n'est pas que le pape soit africain ou non occidental, mais c'est d'accepter et de mettre en oeuvre le caractere universel du catholicisme en commencant par la responsabilisation effective de nos ”hommes de Dieu”au vatican …. Pape africain ”not now”.

The most important thing is not the fact that the Pope is African or non-Western, but to accept and implement the universal character of Catholicism by beginning with effective accountability to our “men of God” to the Vatican …. African Pope.

Odilejr commented [fr] on another column, Vatican : le conclave qui élira le successeur de Benoît XVI pourrait débuter avant le 15 mars [fr], from the same magazine published on February 16. He writes:

Oui pour un pape africain ou sud-américain; ces continents envoient des prêtres en Europe pour compenser le manque de vocations !… .

Yes to an African or South American Pope; these continents are sending priests to Europe to compensate for the lack of missions!…

In an interview with Bruno Ben Moubamba, a journalist, political opponent and human rights activist working with the Catholic Church, shares his opinion [fr] on infosgabon.com:

Il ne s’agit pas d’avoir un Pape africain pour la vitrine. Jean Paul II a dit que l’Eglise est experte en humanité et sur quel continent se trouve l’humanité la plus blessée aujourd’hui ? En Afrique : guerres, manque de soins, taux de scolarisation extrêmement bas, absence d’infrastructures significatives, injustices envers les plus fragiles (femmes, enfants, personnes âgées …), faim, conflits de tous genres …etc. L’Eglise catholique peut réussir là où les décideurs ont du mal. C’est l’intérêt des Africains et du monde entier car, encore une fois, le berceau de l’humanité c’est l’Afrique. Il est temps que le monde prenne soin de son berceau et pas seulement en termes de profits, de guerres, de pouvoir ou de culture.

This isn't about having an African Pope for showcase. John Paul II said that the Church is an expert in humanity. Which continent contains the most wounded people today? In Africa: wars, unavailable care, extremely low enrolment rates, lack of significant infrastructures, injustices to the most vulnerable (women, children, seniors…), hunger, conflicts of all types …etc. The Catholic Church can succeed where the decision-makers are having difficulties. It's in the interest of Africans and the entire world because, once again, the cradle of humanity is Africa. It's time that the world takes care of its cradle, and not only in terms of profits, wars, power or culture.

The seneweb.com blog is publishing a long analysis [fr] of the aforementioned situation, among others:

Plusieurs candidats occidentaux proches du pape allemand, théologiens et intellectuels, ont quelques chances, selon les connaisseurs du Saint-Siège, même si le simple fait d'être occidental, européen ou encore plus italien, est un handicap aux yeux de certains cardinaux venus des Eglises du Sud, en plein essor.

According to the experts from the Holy See, a number of Western candidates that are close to the German Pope, theologians and intellectuals have a chance; while in the eyes of certain Christians from the booming churches in the South, simply being Western, European or more Italian constitutes a disability .

On February 12, a day after Benedict XVI's resignation, Camille Belsœur revealed [fr] on slateafrique.com that:

Selon l'agence de presse italienne de jeux et de paris Agipro News, les bookmakers britanniques misent sur un affrontement entre Italie et Afrique, donnés respectivement à 2,75 et 3,00 par l'agence Paddy Power. Un tête-à-tête confirmé par la liste de noms qui circule: le cardinal nigérian Francis Arinze mène le jeu à 2,90. Son point fort? Il est archevêque du diocèse de Velletri-Segni en Italie, proche géographiquement de celle de Rome. Ce qui lui rallierait des voix au sein de la cohorte de cardinaux européens.

Même chose pour le Ghanéen Peter Tukson, dont la cote est également haute parmi les bookmakers (3,25) et qui est à la tête du diocèse de San Liborio, en Italie.

According to the Italian press agency of gambling, Agipro News, the British bookmakers are betting on a match between Italy and Africa, which gives the Paddy Power agency respectively 2.75 and 3.00. A face-to-face meeting has been confirmed by the list of names that is circulating: Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze leads the bet at 2.90. His strength? He is the Archibishop of Velletri-Segni in Italy, geographically close to that of Rome—what unites the voices within the cohort of European cardinals.Same thing for Ghanaian Peter Tukson—his odds are equally high among the bookmakers (3.25). He is at the head of the Diocese of San Liborio in Italy.
Le Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secrétaire d'état, qi expédiera les affaires courantes. Il est considéré comme l'homme le plus puissant du Vatican

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who will deal with current business. He is considered to be the most powerful man in the Vatican. Photo by Blaž Jelen via commons.wikimedia.org

During the period from 8 p.m. on February 28 to the election date of the new Pope (Petrine sede vacante), the constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” (“The Lord's whole flock”) that regulates the government of of the Holy See plays a major role for both cardinals. News.va presents [fr]:

Deux cardinaux auront un rôle-clé le 28 février à 20h :

- le cardinal camerlingue, en l’occurrence le secrétaire d’état Tarcisio Bertone. Son rôle sera d’expédier les affaires courantes.
– le doyen du sacré collège, le cardinal Angelo Sodano. C’est lui qui sera chargé de présider les congrégations générales préparatoires à l’élection du nouveau pape. Il devra convoquer le conclave à Rome pour élire le nouveau pape et il présidera le conclave.

Both cardinals will play a key role on February 28 at 8 p.m.:- Cardinal Camerlengo, in this case, the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. His role will be to deal with current business.
– the dean of the sacred college, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. He will be in charge of presiding over the general congregations the precede the election of the new pope. He must attend the conclave in Rome to elect the new pope, and he will preside over the conclave.

The electoral body, called the College of Cardinals, consists of 117 cardinals who are under 80 years old—28 of whom are Italians. Would the fact that both of these cardinals are Italian have an influence on the choice of the future Pope?

The St. Esprit will make this known in a few weeks… However, according to an old Roman saying: “He who enters the conclave as pope, leaves it as a cardinal”. In other terms, the St. Esprit could still be playing a joke by eliminating the favourites, for the benefit of another pope-able—someone unexpected.

 

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