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. fezzy

    The cultural shift within the Catholic Church is slowly but surely changing. For those of us who are young (30s and younger) I do believe that we will see a Latin American or an African pope (and quite possibly both) in our lifetime. But the seeds of change take time. For 500 years (give or take), every Pope selected was Italian, and in 1978 the trend was snapped by a Polish cardinal. The Italian stronghold on the Papacy has been broken, but it remains to be seen if the Electorate is willing to place the miter on a non-European's head.

    February 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  2. J. P

    This question/article is absolute garbage. Some people are way too paranoid and fearful these days.

    February 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  3. Gregory L. Faith

    Is it not about time to stop having a Pope? I talk to God when I want to. He just never answers me.

    February 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  4. GayAtheist

    Ellen for Pope!

    February 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • whoami?

      You stupid! Ellen isn't Cathlic

      February 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  5. Dougo

    Too bad Sanduskys' not available ..........he would be a Good Fit for the Catholic Church

    February 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • truth be told

      The fact that a few ho mose xuals lied their way into the priesthood to abuse the innocent is well known to all those twisted ho mose xuals, Sandusky included.

      February 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • truth be told

      Sometimes I take off my pants so that it's not so muffled when I talk out my ass.

      February 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  6. John the Historian

    As a cultural Catholic I am fascinated about who will be the next Pope. I am hoping for a reform minded Pope who will give us Vatican III. The candidates really have to be very secretive about their beliefs so I am wondering if Catholics will another conservative or a secret liberal. The Catholic church needs to reform on birth control, abortion,Gay rights, stop being silent about guns, more open about opposing wars, and more open to interfaith dialogue with other churches and religions. Is there another John the 23rd out there ?

    February 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Not to mention they should probably stop shuffling those molesting priests around to avoid the law.

      February 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • frankb2910

      Did you say the church need reform? How about they go out of business. Give all the proceeds to the children and adult children of abuse. After especially they relocated priests to avoid prosecution. I haven't mentioned the damage they caused the African people who were impoverished and plaiged with aids by telling them not to use condoms. Would I be asking too much if I'd like to hear a heartfelt apology from the pope before he steps down?

      February 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  7. M

    I would cast my vote for Cardinal Guido Sarducci of New York. He is very well regarded and could become the first american Pope.

    February 13, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • John C

      That made me laugh, thanks!

      February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  8. It will be me.

    My name will be......Pope DontGiveAF_ck.

    February 13, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  9. larry5

    Would it narrow the field by a large amount if they eliminated all the gay pedophiles?

    February 13, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • juanito967

      Careful. Pedophilia is an incurable illness, and it happens 3 in a 1000 priests, not all gay, but abused. On the other hand it happens 5 in 100 "normal" married families. Yes let's get pedophiliacs out of church and of the families. but let's also get the real facts out there.

      February 13, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Your numbers are skewed. Remember those surveys rely on the honesty of those polled. Since there is such a stigma against being gay, especially in the church where being gay is an abomination to god, your honesty level will be in question.

      February 13, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Bigot

      Lol juanito care to share your sources for your information or is just ore made up bs from the religious?

      February 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  10. Francisco Decastro

    If the next pope is American, let's prepare for a one world order. The world's most powerful religion will have someone from the worlds most powerful nation at the top. That will influence millions of people to do what the last popes always wanted. New World Order. One Currency. My friends, better pack up, find a quiet place in the woods, and build yourself a farm. Live there. Make sure you are near water. Move to mexico or something. I'm sure you will find land that the government or someone else does not own.

    February 13, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Hubert

      Why don't you get a head start on that Frisco.

      February 13, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I was in Mobile once near the Waterfront Mission. Someone handed me a pamphlet that explained all about demons and how they tend to be found near water. You need to find a dry place, Francisco.

      February 13, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Francisco, in Mexico any land not deeded to a private owner is considered to be owned by the Federal Government. Non-Mexicans are not allowed to own land there, but they are allowed to build houses on that land under 99 year leases.
      As for the questions about an American Pope, consider this. Even though the Greek Orthodox Archbishop/Metropolitan of Constantinople (Istanbul), Bartholomew, is considered the First Among Equals, and the nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Russian Orthodox Archbishop/Metropolitan of Moscow, Kirill, oversees more than half the worlds Orthodox Christians under his "national" Church. He politely "allows" the Bartholomew the illusion of leadership, and Bartholomew recognizes this.

      February 13, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • jess

      That would be something if the next Pope comes from America,what an alliance that would be,they would finally get to do what they want to do unoppose,and it might well be fr America and they would immediately pass the Sunday to honor Rome.

      February 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • EyesOpen

      "the worlds most powerful nation"...you keep believing that Francisco..

      February 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  11. jonat

    Peter the Roman will be the last Pope

    February 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    February 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • God: a Barbie doll for the mind

      It's fun to use your imagination, isn't it?

      February 12, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • frankb2910

      Let me get this straight so I understand. God sent his son to tell other people that eventually told us the word of god. Then he had him tortured and executed and used his son as a scape goat so that we can be forgiven for our original sin which I had actually nothing to do with so we can join him in heaven. Makes perfect sense.

      February 13, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  13. Jean Pierre Smith

    Since the Pope is only a figurehead anyway, may I recommend someone ? Even if he's not from the same religion, he's available. Prince Charles. He's in his 60's, he hasn't got a job and he's still living with his parents. At least, he'd be more fun to watch than any old cardinal.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Zingo

      I was thinking they should go for something like Ronald McDonald.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      he can't be pope. he is married.

      February 13, 2013 at 5:58 am |
    • sam stone

      i think zingo's idea is better

      dresses funny
      feeds people garbage
      has an inordinate interest in being around children

      February 13, 2013 at 6:02 am |
  14. harmony

    It amazes me we still have a Pope in this day in age. The fact there is scandal with the catholic faith and molestation has been involved with little boys is beyond me that people still allow these people to have any leadership.

    I wish people would wake up and see we have the power within us to make this world a better place without these false leaders.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  15. Mohamed

    The fact that this is a debate shows you how racist they are. Choosing a black pope JUST to show that your multicultural ironically just proves that you're racist. This is not a church for the world.

    @JhonHoo did you really say we white men? Last time I checked Asians were yellow. Also I don't see how the colour of an African-American president in the US can affect ALL black people in the world. That just comes to show how racist you are as well.

    Also people are gambling for who the next pope is? Wow....
    I wouldn't be surprised if some cardinals come out this millionaires.

    February 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Ralph of Pittsburgh, PA USA

      HI Mohamed, I read your comment, and I respect what you have to say. But I think that if a pope was chosen from Central Africa it would be a really good think to all people of Africa. It would bring international focus to the problems that so many of the nations face today in buiding stronger federal govenments, infrastruture, and small businesses. I think it would be good over all for all, Christiam, Muslim, and Jew alike. We are all children of God and I wish you well my brother. Ralph from Pgh in USA

      February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • just wondering

      A pope from Kenya perhaps. I know of an excellent candidate who has already been awarded a peace prize and will have 8 years experience as a world leader.

      February 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • midwest rail

      J.w. – it was an absurd angle yesterday, and it remains absurd today. Try some new material.

      February 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  16. No one cares

    If the pope dies alone in a forest, does anyone care?

    February 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  17. dmassiah

    Just reading the posts indicates how well rooted racism is embedded in the Church. The church itself is built on lies and falsehoods. I don't believe in anything that church claims as doctrines including the piety of the Pope which has a corrupt history since it's beginning.

    February 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  18. jhon hoo

    it would be much much better for not having a black man as pope. there's speculation out there that the US president is the Anti-christ. now you want a black man to be the pope. hell no. don't you know the next pope will be the false prophet? i don't think black people can bear that burden. enough for them. we white man whatever we do it's ok, but when those poor african people make any single mistake it attributes directly to their skin color. no black man for pope.

    February 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " don't you know the next pope will be the false prophet? " another Malachy "prophecies" adherent ?

      February 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  19. GJ

    Let us not forget that this current pope also serve in Hitler's army. He claimed abandonment at some point like so many others did when the Allied forces were reigning in on their murderous regime. He's one of the few surviving Nazis...and the ruler of the Catholic world. Good riddence to him....too bad the whole Catholic empire won't just collapse too. Can't trust a Nazi...and certainly cannot trust Catholics.

    February 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • stm60

      You post is so amazingly bigoted and unformed I suspect you are merely trolling. However, to repeat what many others have written: Benedict was by no means a Nazi. Being german and being Nazi are not the same thing. Benedict was drafted into service like everyone else in Germany at the time. You may not like Catholics and you may not like Benedict, in fact I would guess you don't like a lot of things. However facts are facts. There are plenty of open issues you can aim your hatred at but Benedict's army service isn't one of them.

      February 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • ajk68

      Bigotry against Catholics is the only bigotry still acceptable in the US.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  20. Mo

    No way in hell the next pope is a black man. So please stop spreading the lies and propaganda. I'm a member of the Anglican Church in England. The Arch Bishop resigned and was replaced by someone who had been a cardinal less than a year, graduate of Eton (where all the power players in the UK come from), it was widely speculated that a black man would be the new archbishop of Canterbury. Again, No way in hell that was every going to happen. Personally I wouldn't want a millionaire from the oil and gas industry to be the archbishop as there will be conflict of interests.I have a lot of Italian friends and they say that there is no way a black man becomes pope. It just goes to show that color is more important than piety. This is another proof that minorities are not welcome in the anglican church or the catholic church.

    February 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Saraswati

      They're welcome, just not in the top positions. It's a matter of operating in a free market, where people will pick the belief system with which they most closely identify and which most helps bolster their egos. It's basic marketing.

      February 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      All your preaching (and it is preaching), will not convert the open-minded, free thinkers.

      February 12, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
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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.