Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. He could be the next pontiff
by Angela Dodson and Frederick H. Lowe
Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, announced Monday that he will retire February 28 because of his age and ill health. His resignation could open the door for the naming of a pope from Africa, the fourth black pontiff in the church’s history.
Pope Benedict said in Latin in a speech broadcast over Vatican Radio that he wanted “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 advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he said.
|Pope Benedict XVI|
“In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance 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 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 Cardinals on 19 April 2005 in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, a 20:00 hours [8p.m.], the See of Room, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant.”
Pope Benedict, who is 85, will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XIII, who left office in 1415. The College of Cardinals hopes to choose a new pontiff during the start of Holy Week on March 14.
Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria is expected to be one of the leading contenders for pontiff. Cardinal Arinze, 80, was ordained in 1958, and in 1965 at the age of 32, he became the world’s youngest bishop. He was named a cardinal in 1985. He was considered a leading candidate for the papacy in 2005.
|Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana|
However, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana has emerged as an even more likely candidate this time around, according to numerous reports. He is 64 and with the retiring pope citing his frailties, his relative youth might sway the College of Cardinals.
In the early history of the church, there were three black pontiffs, Pope St Victor I (ca 186-198), Pope St Miltiades (311-14), and Pope St Gelasius (492-496), all Africans, according to the Liber Pontificalis, a series of biographical entries about the popes
Africa is the fastest-growing region for the Catholic Church. In 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa, the Roman and Eastern catholic churches had an estimated at 158 million members on the continent, according to the New York Times. By 2025, one-sixth (230 million) of the world’s Catholics are expected to be African.