Is the world ready for a black pope? Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana: "Why not?... if God would wish to see a black man also as pope, thanks be to God!"
Turkson is the new darling of those who long to see a black man ascend to the head of the Catholic Church. We haven't had an African pope since the 5th century. With more than 160 million Catholics in Africa alone, the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of representation from the church in Africa.
The prospect of a black pope: It's entirely possible. We didn't think we'd get a Polish pope or a German pope either. We have to understand that in the eyes of God, race and ethnicity are not really relevant.
Should it come to pass, the election of a black pope would be a transformative event. It would be a tremendous boost to black Catholics, it would give them a real sense of 'This is our church, too. He also cautions that there could be some backlash from the white catholic community: There will be some prejudice.
Turkson is a dynamic leader. A scripture scholar who earned his doctorate from the highly respected Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, he is fluent in multiple languages and, at 65, is Africa's youngest Cardinal. Some of his more moderate positions, however, place him squarely to the left of Pope Benedict and the current church's conservative leanings. Regardless of who succeeds Pope Benedict, Turkson has a bright ecclesiastic career ahead of him.
The three black men who have headed the Catholic Church have all left important legacies. Pope Victor I, the first African pope during the second century, fought for and was instrumental in establishing the celebration of Easter on a Sunday. He was also the first to celebrate mass in Rome in Latin, rather than Greek.
When the next black man gets to leave his mark on the papacy is still merely conjecture. If it were to happen, it would be a great sign; one that speaks to the universality of the church.
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