Could the next pope be from Africa or Latin America?
February 11th, 2013
01:18 PM ET

Could the next pope be from Africa or Latin America?

By Eric Marrapodi and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

(CNN) - Hours after Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement Monday, speculation was surging over who might be his successor and what part of the world the new pontiff could be from.

The 118 cardinals who will pick the next pope are also in the running for the job. Those cardinals are from around the globe, but more than half of them hail from European nations, according to Vatican statistics.

Worldwide, the demographic trends among the Roman Catholic Church's nearly 1.2 billion members show a different breakdown, with the church seeing only a trickle of new members in Europe, while membership has grown significantly in Africa.

So this time around, could the pope be from Africa, where growth has surged significantly, or from Latin America, a longtime bastion for the church?

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"It's always one of those exciting things. I bet there will be a line in Vegas, there probably already is," said Randall Woodard, an associate professor of theology at Saint Leo University.

"Especially based on the growth of Catholicism and ... the geographic shifts that have taken place, a lot of smart money would be on Africa or Central America."

Some stressed that the pope's geographic background shouldn't be a factor.

"All of the questions about nationalities are nonsense," said Michael Sean Winters, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. "There are 118 men, and all of them have gotten to know one another. ... Their questions are going to be 'who can we see in that chair?'"

For many in Italy, the choice is already clear, according to John Allen, CNN's senior Vatican analyst.

"Around the dinner tables today in Rome, Cardinal Angelo Scola has the pole position," Allen said Monday.

Scola, an Italian, is the archbishop of Milan.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the Vatican's office of bishops, is also a likely frontrunner, said Allen. And Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, an Argentinian who works as the Vatican prefect overseeing eastern churches, is well-known for his leadership and administrative skills, Allen said.

'The face of Catholicism'

Another top contender for the papacy could be Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, said Woodard, the managing editor of the International Journal of African Catholicism. The 64-year-old cardinal currently heads the pope's council for justice and peace and has experience working with people of different faiths, Woodard said.

"He would be able to respond to global needs and ... the reality of what the face of Catholicism is," Woodard said.

In Brazil - which leads the world with more than 133 million Catholics, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life - many were buzzing about Benedict's resignation announcement Monday.

"The country has a tradition of Catholicism, and any news related to the pope is very important news in Brazil. ... There are those experts saying that maybe the time has come for a cardinal from the developing world, Africa or Latin America, to ascend to the papacy," said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Catholic faithful gathered at a religious celebration in Brazil's capital Monday said they were surprised by the news of Benedict's resignation and hopeful that Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz might be picked for the papacy, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

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But choosing the next pope is an issue that must rise above geographic borders, said the Reverend Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest from Uganda's Kampala archdiocese who is an associate professor of theology and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

"Part of the frustration for me is that there is a thinking that Africa's challenges and the opportunities and the interests can only be advanced if we have an African pope," Katongole said. "I find it extremely frustrating when in my vision, the church is a transnational communion of believers whose identity and loyalty cuts across these geopolitical boundaries."

Cardinals prepare to decide

While people outside the church may focus on nationalities and race, within the church's top ranks, cardinals have "a very global vision," Woodard said.

"The pope has to be the visible shepherd of 1 billion Catholics in the world," said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. "I don't think going into the conclave the pope has to be of a certain nationality."

Other factors are important, Paprocki said, like the age of the next pope.

"It's a grueling and demanding schedule to keep up with," he said.

Pope Benedict, who is 85 years old, said Monday that he will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."

"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," the pope said, according to the Vatican.

Age is also a factor for cardinals. Once a cardinal reaches 80, he is no longer able to participate in the election of the pope or enter the secret conclave where cardinals gather to select the next pope.

Of the 118 cardinals of voting age, 28 are from Italy, 34 are from elsewhere in Europe, 19 are from Latin America, 14 are from the United States and Canada, 11 are from Asia, 11 are from Africa and 1 is from Australia.

Cardinals will meet to choose Benedict's successor sometime after his official resignation on February 28, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.

"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," he said.

Benedict won't be involved in the decision, Lombardi said. But his influence will undoubtedly be felt. Benedict appointed 67 the 118 cardinals who will make the decision.

It's a choice that Cardinal Donald Wuerl said he doesn't take lightly.

"When we go into the conclave, what has to be upper in the minds of all of us is what is God asking of us in making a choice. Who will fill the chair of Peter? And I think that's going to be the only consideration," said Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. "Who among this body has the qualifications, the characteristics, the spiritual gifts to fill that chair?"

Wuerl told reporters that he was in his study at 5 a.m. Monday preparing a homily for Ash Wednesday when he found out about the pope's decision.

"This is very startling," he said. "I was totally unprepared for it."

Wuerl is a top American contender for the papacy, according to Allen. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, could also be considered, but both Americans would be on the "C or D list" of candidates, Allen said.

While only the church's inner circle will know what goes on inside the conclave, bookmakers were quick to set the odds over who will be the top contenders.

Two online betting sites listed Turkson as a favorite Monday. London-based William Hill plc and Dublin-based Paddy Power both gave him 3-1 odds.

CNN's Michael Pearson, Hada Messia and Kyle Almond contributed to this report.

Full Coverage: The pope resigns

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Africa • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • South America

soundoff (648 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Sure. And let's move the Vatican to Timbuktu, Mali or La Paz, Bolivia. Or better yet, let's convert it to a mosque.

    February 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  2. aurelius

    The answer: BERLUSCONI! He has what it takes to be a pope and at 75 or so, he's still 10 years younger than any of those stooges shown on the photo.

    February 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  3. goldilock

    To Holiness Pope Benedict and coming Pope of 2013, Philippines needs help. Mao is preventing citizens of the Philippines from using their natural resources, use in their fishing ground, use of their 200 miles EEZ. They are actively getting harassed by big mao ships. Philippines needs your help and assistance.

    February 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Kristophorus

      Please save your plea to the United Nations.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  4. pnm9pnm

    ya proov it ya right proof,.pnm,.

    February 15, 2013 at 4:14 am |
  5. pnm9pnm

    when this poop ben finshis being outsted he need to start a band bums an rossares then thowe him to ben laden an his beer at the sea floors where thay can walk an seek vangens by the way the phish filed a conpant on u holy rollers,.pnm,.

    February 15, 2013 at 4:12 am |
  6. kevobx

    *Jeremiah 7:30 For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. *1st Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: *Jeremiah 8:21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. *Lamentations 5:10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine. *Revelation 19:12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. *Jeremiah 4:28 For this shall the earth mourn, and heavens above be black: (The heavens above are not in darkness, mankind is *Isaiah 8:22 And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.)

    February 15, 2013 at 1:58 am |
  7. Cadinal Pooop

    Whoever it is let him be healthy and young so we don't have to go through this every few years.

    February 15, 2013 at 1:57 am |
  8. kevobx

    You have the right to remain silent, what is lent? *Genesis 25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and a pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. *Jeremiah 7:24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. *John 18:6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

    February 15, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • End Religion

      Hey you crazy bastard, how ya doin'?

      February 15, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  9. pato

    Ok, this is laughable, put a black Pope in Vatican the you ll see how racist and hypocritical whites are,,,

    February 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Kristophorus

      Would be interesting. But he needs to have skills in administration and politicking otherwise his reign will be chaotic.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  10. plumbline

    We live in interesting times...........will the next pope be faithful to the Lord, or will he be a forshadowing of the harlot spoken of in the Book of Revelations...........

    Revelation 17 .......17 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. 5 And on her forehead a name was written:


    6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

    February 14, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • midwest rail

      There is no Book of Revelations.

      February 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

      I AM THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Lucifer

      silly thou art

      February 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jesus

      LUCIFER!!! where the hell have you been man, you were supposed to come by my place for poker night, dude michael jackson cleaned the table, and bought us all wine at the angels den

      February 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Lucifer

      I was at eden center for rehabilitation your stupid apostle peter got me hooked on coke again... sigh

      February 15, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jesus

      oh that sucks, so what do you think of this situation with the pope wanting to resign?

      February 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  11. earl

    the next pope see here http://thetruthandthetruthalone.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-next-pope.html

    February 14, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  12. kevobx

    How can mankind judge you? If one tells the truth, the no man will judge you by their own accomplishments, because they rejected grace. The truth will burn the proud up, see how angry red they have all become. Salvation is grace and truth, to come to thy Father. The Most High God is watching us (Psalm 78:56)

    February 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  13. tegha fidelis

    give africa a chance to carry people to heaven .by the way we know how aficans are instrumental in the religon.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  14. tegha fidelis

    to my opinion this begin to show how the roman catholics are making thier path way to a decline. pope Benedict was not a strenger not his healht condition befor going in for the post of pope . i find him inconsisten to manage the religon as say the will of God people make use of thier own ideas to handdle thing just as it has begin to proof.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • GOD of ALL GODS

      I am not going to apply for this job, as I am already the GOD of ALL GODS

      February 14, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  15. kevobx

    *John 11:48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. *Psalm 82:1-2 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. *Acts 10:34-35 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; *Exodus 20:3 Thou shall have no other gods before me. *James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; *Jeremiah 15:17 I sat not in the assembly of mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation. *Isaiah 10:5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (Psalm 109:6)

    February 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  16. kevobx

    *John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. *Revelation 18:11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn for her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: *Jeremiah 7:11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. *Acts 7:49 what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? *Hebrews 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. *Ezekiel 27:36. The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  17. Skorpio

    A Pope from the Middle East could bring back the roots of Christianity. There are more than 19 Catholic patriarchs in full communion with Rome that could be elected as Pope. Perhaps that could trigger a massive conversion of millions of Muslims to Christianity.

    February 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Kristophorus

      Wrong in my opinion. The status quo is chaotic enough. Mixing a subset of belief into the system will create more havoc.

      February 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  18. Noone Cares

    If the pope died alone in a forest, would anyone care?

    February 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • GOD of ALL GODS


      February 14, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  19. Peter Griffin

    I'd make a great pope!!!! To the Peter mobile!!!!

    February 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  20. kevobx

    The four corners of the world is when one opens up the Bible to read. The good book has four corners: east, west, south, and north. *Jeremiah 51:63-64 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah. *Revelation 9:14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. *Genesis 2:14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. *Ezekiel 29:3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, Pharoah king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own and I have made it for myself. (*Revelation 12:12*)

    February 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Wow

      It's hilarious to see Christians take snippets of scripture to make up a story. It only shows their own delusional state of mind.

      February 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • mathieu

      the jews were never slaves to egypt, and in fact for all we know never in egypt, its all made up.

      February 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.