New pope could mean new beginning
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 00:02
For many, the papacy is almost an ethereal position; but for Catholics the pope is God’s representative on earth. Thursday will be the last day for Pope Benedict XVI to preside over the Catholic Church. Worried about his physical and mental health getting in the way of leading the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the pope announced that he would be the first in over 600 years to abdicate the papacy. The papal conclave is set to convene sometime between Mar. 15 and 20 of this year; however prospective hopefuls are already lining up for the chance to serve as the next pope.
There are growing rumors of the possibility of Benedict’s successor not being from a European country, which would go against a millennium of tradition. The current front runners include two from Latin America and Peter Turkson from Ghana.
"When I was growing up, it was presumed the pope would be an Italian," Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, said on his live radio show, "Conversation with Cardinal Dolan."
When a Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (renamed John Paul II) assumed the pontificate, it was the first time since 1523 a non-Italian was elected, "that was thought to be an earthquake." Dolan said. John Paul II’s successor and current serving pope, Benedict XVI, is from Germany.
"We don’t have to think that anymore, do we?" he said. "The pope is the earthly, universal pastor of the church. To think that there might be a pope from North American, Latin America, Asia, or a pope from Africa, I think that’s highly possible."
Latin America is home to 39 percent of the world’s Catholics, according to Pew Research. Africa makes up a portion of about 16 percent. The largest growth has happened in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It seems beneficial, to me, for the conclave to look towards voting in an African pope. Perhaps this change is too quick but if the church expects to grow in any manner this would be a step in the right direction.
After decades of continued allegations and sex scandals, it would be best to have a breath of fresh air. Originally reported in an Italian newspaper, there have been rumors that Benedict is stepping down due to allegations of sex scandals and blackmail within the Vatican itself.
"It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave," Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, said Saturday, "that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable, or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to person and institutions."
Pope Benedict XVI has stayed away from comments on allegations but did address his continued commitment to the church in his last sermon on Sunday. "The Lord is calling me to climb the mount and to devote myself to meditation, reflection and prayer," he said. "This does not mean abandoning the church, but rather, so that I can continue to serve the church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done up until now."
Perhaps the conclave could vote in the first black pope – previously having three African popes of Caucasian heritage. This seems like a radical option, but perhaps the best. The vote could help offset some of the past scandal and open up a new social door for the church.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana seems to be an early front runner to assume the role.
Last week he spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and discussed some possible progression within the church. "We need to be true and faithful to the faith which makes a church a church and we need to be true to being relevant in society in fulfillment of the mission of the Church." Turkson said, "We may not sacrifice one for the other. So while the Church seeks to be relevant in society … we also need to have a mind on what it is that the Church believes."