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A black pope would be bigger than Obama

By Wade Simmons

Editor-at-Large

ATLANTA, March 12, 2013, 8 p.m. - Imagine this: As you come home from work and cook dinner, you hear breaking news live from the Vatican. “The cardinals in Rome have selected a pope,” the announcer says.

The new pope would be the leader of roughly 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world. This pope would ascend to the throne at a time when the once dominate Roman Catholic Church in Europe has now lost influence and members.

Then the new Pope emerges on television. However, you immediately notice that he is not Caucasian. He is a person of color. The crowds down below in the square also notice his race and explode in exuberated cheers and applause.

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The above scenario may be fiction however, many think that probability of having a pope that is of non-European is greater now than ever.

If this or a similar scenario happens, surely it would send shock waves throughout the world. The church has not had a pope of African descent since Pope Gelasius, the 49th successor of St. Peter in the late 5th century, AD. Besides, Gelasius, the Catholic Encyclopedia noted two other popes that have been non-European. Those popes are Victor I (the 14th successor of Peter [189-198 A.D] noted for being the first pope to speak Latin) and Miltiades (311-314 A.D the 32nd successor of Peter.)

Surely, the election of an African pope or a pope that is non-European would not only be historic but also have a monumental impact on people throughout the world. Just as the election of Barrack Obama, the 44th president of the United States had in 2008 and the elevation of Polish John Paul II to the papacy in 1978. John Paul made history becoming the first non-Italian pope since 1523.

Even before his election as president of the free world Obama had an extremely high favorable rating of 70 percent according to a November Gallup Poll. His popularity denoted him as that of a “rock star,” on the world circuit during his election campaign against then-Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Throughout the president’s first term and in the beginning of his second term Obama seemed to maintain a highly favorable worldwide likability. Many contribute this to Obama charismatic personality and his ability to relate to the common person.

However, years before most would ever contemplate that the United States would elect a black president, the Catholic Church may have lead the trend in historic world movements by electing a little priest, who grew up in communist Poland, Karol Józef Wojtyła. Wojtyła electrified the world with his no nonsense charisma—as Pope John Paul II.

The election of a non-European pope may even overshadow President Obama on world events. It would even overshadow increased rhetoric from North Korea, the Syrian Civil War, unrest in Egypt, and the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela.

There may also be a social domestic tug-of-war if the new pope is a person of color. These would be two leaders with extreme influence - one based on political status of the United States and the other based on spiritual, traditional and the nostalgia of a new official. A black pope would lead on moral and social conscience issues such as: contraception, abortions and gay marriage.

Fr. Alfonzo Erestain, 76, a former retired chaplin of the US Navy, who now serves as a priest at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., welcomes the idea of a non-European pope.

“I would like to see an Asian [pope,]" Erestain said.

“I am praying. I pray for one hour every day. We have [had] many from Europe,” the Philippine-American Chaplin said. “The cardinals would be led by the holy spirit.”   

Erestain believes that the idea of a non-European pope would be an important milestone in the 2000-year old institution. “It would show our diversity and how we embrace culture,” he said.

However, Erestain did note that such a move by the church might take time for many to get used to, “One of the challenges would be acceptance.”

(Simmon's is a proud Catholic)


 


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