“HABEMUS PAPAM!” (WE’VE A POPE)
YES HE IS FROM AFRICA!
By Bamba Mass Human Rights Activist (UK)
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana
Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze
Is it possible this time? Definitely it is! A College of Cardinals who elected the Pope was and still looks dominated by Italians. Majority of the past chosen Cardinals to lead the Catholic community of Christians since the time of the Roman Empire were Italians.
Though St. Peter, the first Pope, was Jewish and a Galilean by birth but most Popes after him, for over 400 years, until Pope John Paul II, were only Italians or Popes of Italian by birth.
However, the College of Cardinals which selected the Pope has become a much more diverse even though Europeans continue to have a virtual lock in overall numbers: Exactly half of the current 116 Cardinal electors (those under age 80) are from Europe, with Italy alone still counting 20 Cardinal electors, Latin America as a whole with 20 Cardinal electors, while the United States and Canada together has a total of 16 Cardinal electors. Asia has 11 and Africa only 9 electors. This shows how dim the chances of an African becoming a Pope have been the case since St. Gelasius from 492 A.D to 496 A.D.
Though it is true that any baptized male Catholic in theory can emerge from a conclave as Pope, the chance of an African Pope always looks dim, despite media and public expectations. Even after the death of Pope John Paul II it was likely that an African would emerge as Pope. Many people expected Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria to become the first black Pope of the 21 Century, but he was out voted by Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger of Germany who became Pope Benedict XVI. It was said that Cardinal Francis Arinze came second in that elections. Christopher M. Bellitto, a papal historian from New Jersey’s Kean University, thought the choice of Pope Benedict was the result of the indecision among Cardinals who were unwilling to make a bold move toward modernization.
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has made him the first Pope to abdicate the position in nearly 600 years, forcing the Conclave of Cardinals to elect a new Pope on March 15, when Cardinals will lock themselves up in the Sistine Chapel to elect the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The situation calls for some rule bending, and having the current Pope involved is proving advantageous for the elections to be held even earlier.
While Benedict won’t be directly involved in his successor’s selection, his influence will undoubtedly be felt. He had appointed 67 of the 115 cardinals set to elect his successor. The composition is disproportionately Western, with 62 Europeans and 17 from North America. That could prove to be a problem for the emergence of a Pope from within the developing world, where the church is ascendant. All eyes are on Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, 63-year-old Odilo Schererof Brazil or Luis Antonio Tagle, 55, of the Philippines. Expectations are high this time as bookmakers are betting on Africa again with Ghana’s Turkson becoming the Irish bookmakers’ favourite for new Pope. But it remains to be seen whether Christopher M. Bellitto would be proven right.
Among the up-and-coming Cardinals from Africa, Vatican watchers cite Peter Turkson a rising star within the Catholic Faith and Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier, 67 of South Africa just close behind, as potential papal material. Archbishop John Onayiekan of Nigeria, who may soon be up for a Cardinal slot, is considered “strong here and back there,” says one Rome insider, referring to Onayiekan’s knowledge of the Third World and his skills navigating the ins and outs of the Holy See. That makes it seemingly unlikely for Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze who is now 80 years old to become Pope but he is not ruled out yet. Bookies had it that if he was elected then he would become the second eldest elected Pope with the first being Pope Adrian I from 772 – 795 aged 80. Adrian II who became Pope from 867 to 872 was the last married pope – his wife Setphania and his daughter lived in the Vatican palace with him. Adrian IV who was Pope from 1154 to 1159 was the first and thus far the only Pope from England. So who knows what those Cardinals have in their minds when they retire to elect a new Pope?
Still, the Vatican parlor game of trying to envision future papal candidates is slippery business. Perhaps the ever strongest African candidate of the 20th century who many had hoped would have been Pope had he lived was the widely respected Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, who died in May at the age of 86. Having once headed the powerful Congregation of Bishops, some thought Gantin could be an ideal candidate to replace John Paul, whose health was long suffering. But the durable Polish pontiff lived much longer than many predicted, and Gantin eventually retired and went back to Africa. But in reality Catholic history had it that there was in fact three African Popes before. According to the Liber Pontificalis (Book of Popes) and the Catholic Encyclopedia there have been three popes who were natives of Africa.
1. St. Victor I was the first African Pope and a native of North Africa, which was a province of Rome at the time. St Victor I was appointed in 186 A.D. and ended his reign in 198 A.D. It is believed he later died in 199 A.D. He was regarded as the first Christian author to write about theology in Latin.
2. The next African pope, St. Miltiades became Pontiff in 311 A.D. and died in 314 A.D. He was elected after the banishment of Pope Eusebius. It is believed he was born to African parents but lived in Rome.
3. St. Gelasius reigned from 492 A.D. – 496 A.D, and was the third and last known African pope. In the Liber Pontificalis he is described as “natione Afer” and “Romanus natus” meaning “of African origin” and “Roman born” respectively.
Although these previous Pontiffs were of African origin, they were more or less seen in modern times as ever been African or Black Popes and history had never mentioned them inside Africa’s Catholic history as African Popes either. Today African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black Pope in modern history is very likely going to be Cardinal Peter Turkson. He is no doubt the favourate African to replace Benedict XVI. As the head of a major Vatican department, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Turkson is ranked as the 5/2 second favourite to take the papal crown when a Conclave of Cardinals meets next month to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his abdication last week on the grounds of ill health.
Catholics throughout the African continent and the developing world are praying that Cardinal Turkson is chosen ahead of the Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, who Paddy Power has made its 9/4 favourite. But Turkson’s public comments blaming homosexual priests for the sexual abuse of many hundreds of children in Europe, the United States and Australia mean his election would be severely criticised in the West. That may favour yet again Cardinal Francis Arinze who is 80 years old.
The first papal resignation since 1415 has emerged with uncertainties that could throw the College of Cardinals’ attention on Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze who would not be able to vote himself but still could be Pope. Since no one expected Benedict’s resignation, it could well be favourable point for Arinze as the Cardinals may not be readily prepared to come with a long-term solution to the papacy. Older Popes are, historically, a form of compromise just like after the death of Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Arinze, an Igbo Nigerian who spent 25 years in the Vatican was, once the world’s youngest bishop. He is quite conservative as the last two Popes were, and was seen as a runner last time. The liberal Cardinals will like the idea of a Pope from the developing world. The new rules mean a new Pope needs the votes of two-thirds of the Cardinals, so one faction cannot impose its will over another. There are only ten African electors left to vote which also shows the dim chances of an African Pope more evident but for a fact Arinze came out second that last time could give him an edge.
Vatican officials were already trying Monday to swat down unsavory claims by Italian publications of a brewing episode involving gay priests, male prostitutes and blackmail when news broke that Benedict had moved up the resignation of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests. With the Catholic priests marred by scores of clerical sex abuses it may be agreed with the cardinal that homosexual abuse of adolescent males rather than paedophile attacks on children characterised the problem. Where the research has been done for example in the United States and Australia in the region of 80 per cent of the victims of sex abuse by priests are adolescent males rather than children. Pope Benedict XVI has been careful to avoid publicly demonising gay priests, focusing instead on meeting and apologising to victims.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and the 5/1 third favourite to succeed Benedict XVI said that some psychiatrists had found a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. ‘That is the problem,’ he said amid the backlash, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement contradicting the cardinal by arguing that ‘there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse.’ But the scandals have made Pope Benedict XVI to force Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the archbishop of Scotland to resign. The Vatican confirmed Monday that Benedict had accelerated the resignation himself. Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles is facing fresh attention for his role in the cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. Mahoney and a Mexican cardinal are accused of conspiracy by allowing a priest accused of abuse to flee to Mexico, putting an untold number of children at risk. Mahoney has denied the allegations.
Father Albert Cutie, an Episcopal priest who studies the Vatican, said it would be impossible to exclude every Cardinal with a hand in the church’s vast sex-abuse problem. “Unfortunately, if you were going to tell me no one can go to the conclave to elect a Pope who has part in any type of cover up, you would probably exclude every cardinal in the church, because unfortunately that’s the way the church is operated,” he said.
“So now in the wake of everything that’s happened in the last 72 hours or so, quite clearly a new item has to be on that list for the Cardinals to choose a new Pope, which is also to make sure they pick somebody who’s got clean hands.”
Likely to be Pope Cardinal Turkson is no stranger to controversy. He offended Muslims last year after he accused them of turning Europe into an Islamic continent. Turkson has said that “if God would wish to see a black man also as Pope, thanks be to God.” The Catholic Church chronicler Rocco Palmo called Turkson the lone Scripture scholar in the Pope’s “Senate” and believes that his status as a potential “palpable” has been elevated due to his appointment as spokesman for Second Synod for Africa in 2009.
Born in Wassaw Nsuta in Western Ghana, Pope Turkson studied at St. Teresa’s Seminary in the village of Amisano and Pedu before attending St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in theology. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John Amissah on 20 July 1975. On October 1992, Turkson was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II and treated him Cardinal-Priest of S. Liborio in his last consistory of October 2003. Turkson is the first Ghanaian Cardinal, and was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave, which selected Pope Benedict XVI.
But much focus should also be on Latin America because the region “represents 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church.” A day after the Pope’s resignation was announced, Reuters reported that “two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. The upshot of their remarks is that the next Pope could well be from Latin America.”
Similarly, Africa has 16 percent of the world’s Catholics — and growing — and just nine percent of the cardinals. Even U.S. and Canadian Catholics are overrepresented: eight percent of all Catholics reside in North America but they account for 12 percent of the cardinals. “Is it not reasonable that the Cardinals be selected from every nation whose office it is to judge all nations?” St. Bernard of Clairvaux asked in the 12th century.
But the obstacles to electing a non-European are more than just numerical. Of course, the cardinals working at the Vatican tend to know everyone, and everyone knows them. So in retrospect, it was no surprise that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected since he was a familiar and trusted presence who had worked in the Curia for decades. “They tried to find an alternative to Ratzinger, but they couldn’t,” a senior Vatican official said after the conclave. This time, however, there are some factors that could scramble the usual calculus.
These names below are definitely the likely candidates for the next Pope and unless something happened, one of them would be the next Catholic Pope. Here I list them according to their age:
1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of United States, Archbishop of New York. Age 62
2. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Age 64. He was appointed by Benedict four years ago to become president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
3. Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Sri lanka, Archbishop of Colombo, formerly Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. age 64
4. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, previously Archbishop of Toledo. Age 66
5. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, of Austria, Archbishop of Vienna, age 67
6. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza of Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, age 67
7. Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, formerly Archbishop of Quebec, age 68
8. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Italy, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, age 69
9. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Italy, Archbishop of Naples, age 69
10. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico, Archbishop of Mexico City, age 70
11. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras who was President of the Latin American Episcopal Conference, age 70
12. Cardinal George Pell of Australia, Archbishop of Sydney age 70
13. Archbishop Angelo Scola, of Italy,a philosopher, age 71.
14. Cardinal Angelo Amato, of Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, formerly Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, age 73
15. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, age 75
16. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Italy, a prelate, age 78
17. Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, age 80.
Out of the 17 likely candidates, seven of them are Italians and there are only two Black Africans while four are from the American continent, three from Asia and only one from Europe. Though it could be none of the above names would be announced on or before the 15th March which is unlikely but in any case a Pope would emerge and hopes are high that this time around the minds of the Cardinals may turn to Africa to revive the ailing prestige of the Catholic religion which is recently marred by sex allegations and cover-ups.
Benedict will be called in retirement. Probably as “pontifex maximus,” as suggested by Celata. The term can be translated as “supreme bishop.” But he might not participate in the voting of his successor.
The Voting Process
The voting process begins with a special morning mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the evening, the Cardinals walk in a procession to the Sistine Chapel – known for its famous ceiling painting by Renaissance artist Michelangelo – to begin the actual voting process. Ballots are passed out, and cardinals write in a candidate’s name and fold it up, then one by one, in order of seniority, they approach an altar and ceremoniously place their ballots into a chalice. After each vote, the ballots land in the fireplace. If no one has won, a chemical is added to make the smoke black. This lets people waiting in St. Peter’s Square below know that there is no new Pope yet.
If there is a winner, no chemical is added, and the smoke remains white, telling the world that the conclave has agreed on a new pontiff.
The winner must accept the decision for it to be valid. Once he does, the dean asks him to choose a papal name. Then oldest the Cardinal announces ‘Habemus Papam!’ (‘We have a Pope’) and presents the new pope to the crowd in the square from a balcony. Then new Pope joins him to bless the crowd and the rest of the world. Let’s see once again who that new Pope would be.