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Welcome New Pope & Farewell Benedict XV1: Is It Time For A Black/Colored Pope?

Sunday 17 March 2013

By Dr. Jerry Komia Domatob

Former Catholic church leader, Pope Benedict XV1 audacious resignation provides a propitious moment for reflection on sundry doctrinal practices and tenets. Indeed, it is an appropriate time for leaders, the laity and its friends to take stock on where the largest, longest serving and perhaps most populous religious organization stands on a number of pertinent issues.

Abominable Sacrilege?

To some diehard Catholics, with dogmatic views on the church and its creed, asking any question, let alone on sacred matters, might be tantamount to a sacrilege. Some may even argue that good Catholics don’t query church canons, especially fundamental precepts. In their perspective, therefore, such a move is at best unwarranted and profane blasphemy, which must not be condoned. To some, therefore, this catapults the writer to the ranks of an apostate.

Crucial Questions

However, the church as a dynamic institution, confronts a number of significant questions. 1) Should women serve on the pulpit as priests and bishops? 2) Should priests be allowed to marry? 3) Is confession still relevant today and 4) Is it time for a black/colored pope?

Parental Objection

My late mother and father, mama and papa Domatob, ardent Catholics from Bali-Cameroon, who inducted me into the faith will be appalled and indeed flabbergasted that I have the impudence to think and boldly express these seemingly unorthodox thoughts. Wherever they might be in yonder world, they are praying for me and I posthumously crave their indulgence, bringing this torture on them. Notwithstanding, the critical question remains: Is it time for a black Pope?

Matter for Cardinal’s Conclave

Evidently, one of the answers which will be slammed on many faces by conventional Catholics is that this is a matter reserved for the cardinal’s conclave. Whatever decision they arrive at is God-inspired, well-measured and above all, a pontifical secret. So matters such as the selection of a black pope might be totally out of whack and deserve no place in church, let alone public discourse. The successor of St. Peter is just that and race, nationality, profession etc, are irrelevant to whoever emerges as pope. That is supposedly the surface modus operandi.

Political Gymnastics

Notwithstanding, the Vatican’s secrecy on such matters, and rightly too, is predicated on the fact that politics is an integral part and parcel of all human organizations, the church included. Yes, there was a time when the Pope was the de facto and de jure head of the Western hemisphere—the defunct Holy Roman Empire. He exercised both temporal and spiritual powers. That partly accounts for the crusades against Islam the church arguably spearheaded with popes like Urban ll.

Although times seem to have changed and that may no longer be the case, so many nations and people still perceive and defend the pope as the spiritual leader of the western world and why not, Christendom. That explains why he is upheld in awe by both leaders and followers even in great countries like the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain, France, Canada and Portugal.

If that is the case, then the papacy and the church is a grand global political organization and machine of irrepressible power. Additionally, by dint of the fact that the Catholic church is an international amalgamation of various communities, nations, ethnic groups, peoples and entities, catapults it to the center of politics. It inevitably wrestles with race, gender, income, region, geography, economics and statehood germane to politics. If that is the case, then the critical question arises: is it time for a black/colored pope?

Categorical No?

On the one hand, the main answer on the pro side is a categorical no. The vicar of Rome, yes, the holy father as the pope is fondly called by church supporters is a God-sent representative of St. Peter. In that conceptualization, once the cardinal’s conclave selects, or elects or acclaims the church prince, he becomes a towering spiritual figure and his creed, nation, culture, language or state becomes insignificant? Or so it is said. He automatically towers as the supreme head of the church.

The pope is the holy father of the entire universal congregation and must be respected as the representative of Christ, especially when he speaks (in-cathedra) in that capacity as Saint Peter’s successor. In fact, discourse of this nature becomes distractions from the main mission of evangelization and winning more souls for Christ, in church observers’ perspective.

Grand Affirmative for Black Pole

Yes, the church along with priests and cardinals are humans who pay attention to trends in the universe. As astute public relations people, they focus on their congregations and stakeholders. Consequently, at previous historical eras, when the church mainly consisted of Europeans, it made great sense selecting popes from this area of the world. That was the church’s main constituency.

Today, the story seems to be diametrically opposite. It appears the fastest growing field for Christianity in the world is in Africa and Latin America. In parts of west, central, eastern and southern Africa, millions of Catholics profess and practice the faith with near fanaticism.

By contrast, it seems there is a graying and dwindling population of church members in once vibrant western nations. Arguably, since the church is growing in Latin America and Africa exponentially, logic may demand that the next pope be a person from one of those regions. Perhaps! Perhaps! Perhaps! Perhaps! Who knows?

Cardinals’ Decision

The idea of a black/colored pope might thus be a dare-devil proposition, which some will dismiss as a desecration, that is anathema in most church quarters. However, the church like all institutions is vibrant as opposed to stagnant. It influences and is shaped by political, economic, social and cultural forces.

Verily, church leaders are some of the shrewdest politicians in the world. That is why constitutions like that of the United States strive to separate the church and state, since theocracy, as Iran has vividly illustrated in contemporary times, that it is a superb recipe for gutless tyranny.

Black and Colored Cardinals

Be that as it may, the cardinal’s conclave in their infinite wisdom, perspicacity and above all, the power of the Holy Spirit, will elect a new church high priest as they have done for centuries with relative efficacy. The only request some ardent observers make is that the black/colored cardinals, who shepherd huge flocks be considered in this monumental selection. Arguably, it is spiritual, but neither politically blind, innocent or unbiased.

Pope Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson?

Will “papabile,” Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson (64), the Vatican’s president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace be the chosen one? Maybe.

After all, against formidable odds and contrary to the predictions of cynics and pessimists, president Obama emerged as America’s chief executive in 2008 and earned reelection for a second term in 2012. Similarly, cardinal Turkson’s compatriot, Kofi Annan, was twice elected the Secretary General of the United Nations at a time when most observers thought it was impossible to imagine such a far-fetched and unrealizable prospect. Yes, the humble, smart, learned and articulate Turkson might be the one to lead the church in this tumultuous era when the church grapples with grave crisis. His face has appeared on posters in Rome, an objectionable practice, which might make him abide by the adage that, “he who goes into the conclave pope, comes out a cardinal.”

Bye Pope Benedict & Welcome New Pope

Meanwhile, we wish Pope Benedict XVl a jolly retirement; zealously welcome his successor whether he is African, Hispanic, European, Asian or Arab in this challenging job.

At a time when the church wrestles with monumental social, political, economic and cultural problems, (like sex scandals that tarnish many congregations globally), the importance of the new pope cannot be over-emphasized. While bidding Pope Benedict farewell, we congratulate, salute and welcome his successor.

Dr. Jerry Komia Domatob is a professor and the Interim Chair of Mass Communication, Alcorn State University, Lorman-Mississippi. An author, journalist, photographer, poet and researcher, he is currently working on three projects. His latest publications are: Communication, Culture and Human Rights and Positive Vibrations. Contact him at: Jdomatob@yahoo.com.