Friday, February 22, 2013

White smoke, black pope? The odds against an ‘Obama moment’


Will the conclave electing a new pope next month have an “Obama moment” and pick someone from Africa or Latin America or Asia for the first time in modern history?
The public seems enamored of the idea of a non-European pope, and even many cardinals — whose votes are the only ones that count — are openly pushing the idea of a “pope of color” to follow Benedict XVI, a German theologian.
“I think in a way the church is always and has forever been ready for a non-European pope,” Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana told reporters after Benedict announced that he was resigning at the end of February.
The appeal of a non-European pope is understandable as it seems to reflect the hope that the church at the top of the pyramid would finally reflect the demographic reality of the faith on the ground, since the growing majority of Catholics live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Picking a pope from the Global South would also show that the church can embrace change — not necessarily by altering a particular doctrine but by changing the way it expresses and embodies the faith. In that sense, a pope from the developing world would be a symbol with real substance, much the way people saw Polish-born John Paul II in 1978, the first non-Italian pontiff in centuries and one who came from behind the Iron Curtain.
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