With Pope Benedict XVI hanging up his shoes (or hat I should say), the papal candidate pool is wide ope, and one of the men believed to be in strong contention is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. He has been part of the conclave of cardinals since 2005. As the Catholic church looks to bring the image of their church into the modern era, many see a non-European pontiff as a possible symbol of new thinking and new directions for the church. An African pope would also be a tip of the hat to one of the few continents where Catholicism is still growing. Now as a Blacknek, we would hope that the next pope would be selected just on his abilities to do the job, but the political realities of the situation means the birthplace and demographics of a pope are always factored in.
I am just not sure if the European Catholic base would be ready for a Black pope. Many liberal Catholics feel distance from church leadership already due to the child sex abuse scandals and views on gay marriage and abortion, but these liberal Catholics tend to be overwhelmingly White. Perhaps, a Black pope would trigger an official ‘us vs them’ movement like the Barak Obama’s presidency has done with the creation of the Tea Party. Looking at the widespread incidences of open racism towards Black players in European counties, these countries really don’t have enough of an exposure to Black communities to not be ruled by ignorance and prejudices. Truthfully, it is hard to predict what the reaction might be, and we can only hope if a Black man is chosen as the next pope that European Catholics surprise us all with positivity and tolerance.