The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Out of Africa: the next pope?

cardinal_441772s.jpgAnything is possible, with the Holy Spirit in charge. And a London paper takes a close look at one contender:

When Pope Benedict XVI kicks off his four-day visit to the UK with a greeting from the Queen at Holyrood House in Edinburgh on 16 September, he will be accompanied by a gaggle of cardinals known as “Princes of the Church”. And, if high-level leaks are correct, among them will be a handsome, modest and very intelligent man who is a potential contender to be the next pontiff.


If that were to happen Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson would be the first African pope for 1,500 years. He was born in 1948 in what was then known as the Gold Coast, a British colony in West Africa. As a boy he was, like his compatriot the former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, a subject of the Queen’s father, King George VI. Indeed, for a few years after the king’s death he was her subject, but in 1957 the Gold Coast attained independence and became Ghana.

His Eminence Cardinal Turkson, the fourth of 10 children, has wasted little time in hitting the highest reaches of the Roman Catholic Church. He is 122nd in seniority among the 179 cardinals, many of whom have retired and would never be regarded as papabili (papal material). In precedence, the Ghanaian stands just a few places behind the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Keith O’Brien, and the semi-retired former archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.


Although bookmakers have made Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze the favourite to succeed Pope Benedict – and thus become the first African pope since the death of Pope Gelasius in 496 – Arinze is now 77 and retired and he may well be too old by the time of any vacancy at the Vatican. Never seen as an ambitious cleric, Cardinal Turkson, when asked if a black man should become pope, replied with a laconic “Why not?”


Cardinal Turkson is proud that the church is strong in Africa, and recently chaired a successful synod for African bishops at the Vatican, another sign of his growing stature. But he recalls how the record has been besmirched by war and genocide. “The Rwandans,” he has said, “were supposed to be 80 per cent Catholic, but they forgot they were Catholic, and they forgot they were Christian.”


He shares Pope Benedict’s worries about the church in Europe. European missionaries first took the Catholic faith to Africa, and African Catholics see Europeans as their spiritual forebears. “It’s indispensable that we see Christianity come back to Europe,” he once told the Catholic News Service. “If Europe should become less Christian, it gives us a sense of being orphans, of having an experience of faith without parents.”

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posted August 29, 2010 at 11:26 am

As a practicing Catholic I will support anyone who goes in. However I hope it is not the Archbishop of Mexico City. Nothing personal there, I do not know who the current Archbishop of Mexico City is.
I say that for obvious reasons.
Take Care

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Deacon Norb

posted August 29, 2010 at 11:44 am

An African Pope?
Wonderful! Then, maybe, we can get liturgical dance re-instated into the wider church. That certainly would shake-up a lot of Neo-Conservative Catholics and force them to think about just how “universal” our church really needs to be.

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posted August 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

“Wonderful! Then, maybe, we can get liturgical dance re-instated into the wider church. That certainly would shake-up a lot of Neo-Conservative Catholics and force them to think about just how “universal” our church really needs to be.”
Cardinal Arinze was at one time head of Divine Worship and an African. Was he in favor of liturgical dance?

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posted August 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Very few intelligent and Christian people really care whether the Pope is white, black, African, Asian, or European. Only the narrow-minded, who think in racial terms would consider this important. To Americans, who have been brainwashed with racial messages since the 1960s, this would be important.

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posted August 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

The Church is not opposed to ‘liturgical dance’ when it is part of that particular culture – as in ritual dancing to greet an important person to a court, (and not dancing would be considered a grave insult to the important person). It has never been part of our Western or American culture. We use dance strictly for entertainment, so why would we want to interrupt the important work of worship at Holy Mass to be entertained?
See, in my 46 years of going to Holy Mass and having to sit through some of the most horrendous innovations ever thought up by priests, sisters, and liturgical committees, the ‘liturgical dance’ I’ve witnessed was just plain awful. Silly grown women and teenagers twirling about waving their arms like children playing at ballerina, trying so hard to look pious, but just looking extremely goofy. It was hard not to laugh at them. And you must understand, I’m 46. I have only once in my life been to a single Latin Mass, and that was just two years ago. I’ve only ever known the Novus Ordo, and all the stupid, silly, crazy oddities people threw into it to make it ‘relevant’ – in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ donchaknow. I think I’ve seen it all and then some.
If you really wanted to be “universal”, the Holy Mass should be celebrated only one way, allowing for any ancient and important cultural differences here and there, and to be truly universal, in only one language so anyone could enter a church anywhere else in the world and could participate without language barriars.
But interestingly and sadly enough, those who would call folks who just want Holy Mass to be celebrated with reverence and only according to the GIRM ‘neoconservatives’ instead of just plain ‘Catholics’ would certainly cry like one tortured over the very idea of the Mass being celebrated in Latin. Go figure.

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posted August 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

And while I’m on this royal tear – if the Gospel itself preached from the heart of the Church can’t ‘shake me up’, and receiving Holy Eucharist doesn’t ‘shake me up’, then a bunch of women prancing like fairy princesses around the sanctuary won’t do it either!

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posted August 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm

If you really want to get “shaken up” go to a Sister’s jubilee celebration. The usual necessities are Sisters waving tree branches dipped in holy water for the “asperges”, Sisters carrying pots of smoking incense in the procession and Sisters, sometimes in leotards, spiraling up the aisle. If you don’t think it is true, believe I have seen it at least three times. They often also often forbid concelebrants since they themselves can’t concelebrate the mass.
Dancing in the liturgy is not part of our culture.

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posted August 30, 2010 at 5:18 am

I’ve never felt shaken up by liturgical dance, just confused and frustrated at being left out. Liturgical dance, in my mind, is the liturgical equivalent of an inside joke. Those doing the dancing know what their movements mean (I hope!), but I sure don’t. On the other hand, I know why the priest does what he does. I know the reason for the procession, the bows, the signing of the cross, etc… for all the various liturgical movements that take place during the Mass. Liturgical dance? Nope. I have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing or if there’s any meaning to it whatsoever. To my wife and me, it always looks more pagan than Christian. It also strikes me as cultural arrogance and imposition. The liturgical elites like it, they do it in other cultures (where it actually means something), so we’re going to do it here and we’re going to make you like it … or at least sit through it.
Having said that, I think a pope from Africa would be marvelous. The Church in Africa is growing and has a reputation for orthodoxy. A pope from the third world would give the Church a different perspective, and a good one, I’m sure. There are a number of cardinals from the third world who would probably make excellant popes. But, let’s not bury Benedict too soon!

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posted August 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

a quick lesson on comparative religion:
Rabbi Brad Hirshfield, on his Jewish BELIEFNET blog, NEVER deletes
reader postings from it, nor matter how silly or offensive even those which denounce Jews as Christ-killers or wish to proselytize Jews to become Christians.
Might this be because there are no dogmas in Judaism, and the tradition is not afraid of intellectual inquiry?
By contrast, Deacon Kandra, coming from a culture of IMPRIMATUR and NIHIL OBSTAT, feels compelled to crack down on arguments that hit home because of their “tone”.

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posted August 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm

“By contrast, Deacon Kandra, coming from a culture of IMPRIMATUR and NIHIL OBSTAT, feels compelled to crack down on arguments that hit home because of their “tone”.”
And the point is? Is it not Deacon’s discretion on his own blog. It is not a comparative religion blog. Don’t like the blog? Don’t post.

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posted August 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I’m glad Deacon does not allow offensive and insulting comments. He does encourage critical analysis and engagement though. Insults and demeaning language seem to increase emotionally reactive postings and decrease the amount of reasonable discourse.
Catholics who go to a Jewish blog and spit insults should be ashamed and go to confession. It’s not the kind of response that is in line with the faith.

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Andre John

posted August 30, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I miss Pope John Paul II (Karol of Poland).
but still, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger of Germany) is still alive and well, as we know of, right now, RIGHT?
May we pray for the success of our current Pope, right now,
focus on the present; and let G=D deal with the future. +AMDG+

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posted January 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm

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