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After Benedict’s Resignation Will Catholics Get Their First Black Pope?
Pope Benedict shocked the world today with his surprise resignation, and more historic changes may be in store as two of the top contenders to replace him are black.
“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both 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. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”
The fact that Benedict has become the first pope to resign since 1415 is big, but the damage that he leaves behind may be even bigger.
Terry Sanderson at the National Secular Society makes the case that Benedict has fatally undermined the Vatican, “Under Ratzinger the Vatican has become despised and resented throughout the world. He has played a major role in reducing the Catholic Church’s popularity and its authority. Catholics have deserted the Church at an increasing rate, repelled by the inhumanity of Ratzinger’s unbending adherence to what are perceived as cruel doctrines.”
With the child sex scandals still raging, and Catholics tuning out the Vatican in increasing numbers, the church may elect the first black pope.
According to the gambling website Paddy Power the early favorite to replace Benedict at 9/4 odds is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. (Turkson comes with his own baggage. He is known for holding the view that theological dialogue with Muslims is impossible.) Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is second with 5/2 odds, and in third is Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria at 3/1. If either Turkson or Arinze are elected, they would become the first black pope.
Under Benedict, the Catholic church became even more politically irrelevant. In the United States, the Republican Party embraced the Church’s opposition to Obamacare because of birth control and saw Catholic voters go big for Obama over Romney. The turn back the clock mentality of Benedict only served to leave the church further behind modern culture.
Even if the Vatican does elect a black pope, the systemic problems within the Catholic Church will remain. The next pope, white, black, or Latin American will take over a troubled church that is in desperate need of leadership; vision, modernization, trust, transparency, and repair of a deeply damaged public image.