Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for African Pope

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NB this story is also covered in the article Desmond Tutu calls for election of African popeSunday, April 3, 2005

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South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu today called for the cardinals of the Catholic Church to choose an African pope to succeed the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. The Archbishop said, "I hope the cardinals... will follow the first non-Italian pope by electing the first African pope." (Note: Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since the 15th century, but not the first non-Italian pope ever, as Tutu has stated. Additionally, it would not be the first time an African pope has been elected.)

Should such an event occur, it is widely believed that Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria would be the most likely candidate. The 72 year old Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship is known to be theologically conservative but very knowledgeable about the Islamic religion, an important strength given recent hostilities between Christians and Muslims. Arinze was one of the five cardinals chosen by the Pope to sit on the Committee of the Great Jubilee in 2000.

If Cardinal Arinze becomes the next Pope, he would be the first African Pope in over 1,500 years - the last being Pope Gelasius I who was the Pontiff from 492 to 496.

However in Nigeria such predictions have been met with mixed responses. A churchgoer in the state of Enugu told the Reuters news agency, "I doubt if world politics will allow a black man to be pope."

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