The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 April 2005

Does New Pontiff's Ethnicity Matter?

Papal Debate: Race Card Emerges
Tutu Lectures Vatican, Demands African Pick


Signs of media attempts to influence the upcoming papal election are already emerging worldwide. It's a different era now than the one that greeted cardinals in both 1978 decisions.

Will they listen to the chatter, or wisely, shut it out?

Watch for the American media to get on board the bandwagon immediately, hoping the next one will see eye-to-eye with them on issues, if they haven't already begun.

But the Catholic Church is not a democracy, cardinals are looking to choose the leader of a religious faith, not please newspaper editors.

This story contends the world's Roman Catholics are looking for a leader that shares their skin color. The complaint is that the previous pontiffs have all been European.

It's more accurate, however, to say they've all been Italian, with one Polish exception, in recent centuries. Has there been an Irish, Portuguese, German or French pope in modern times?

Predictably Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, notorious anti-Semite, thinks he's in a position to lecture the Vatican as to how they should choose the next pope. Why did the AP even interview Tutu? In what other circumstances would they ask members of other faiths how an organized religion should determine its own future?

So why play the race card?

Followers are instead more likely to be looking for a Pope that shares their direction on religious and moral issues, one that respects church traditions and teachings.

Americans are hoping for someone to clean up the damage left behind by the priest scandals and financial struggles that followed. Ethnicity is not going to determine the Catholic Church's future, solid leadership will.

Watch for more of these stories in coming days, loaded with terms like "diversity":

(AP- via CNEWS [Canada]- Niko Price)

MEXICO CITY (AP) - As cardinals rushed to the Vatican on Sunday to begin the process of selecting a new pope, many back home were asking a pointed question: if most of the world's Roman Catholics live in the developing world, why has every pope been European?

The possibility that the next pope could come from Latin America, Africa or Asia is creating a buzz from Mexico City to Manila, from Tegucigalpa to Kinshasa.

Many Latin American Catholics said the only way to improve on a papacy they overwhelmingly supported would be to select someone from their own ranks.

Their hopes were fuelled by the last papal conclave, in which a Polish archbishop became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, as well as by the global outreach John Paul made the cornerstone of his papacy. They have also been boosted by sheer numbers: Half the world's one billion Roman Catholics live in Latin America alone, and the church is seeing explosive growth in Africa and Asia.

Even outside Roman Catholicism, leaders from the developing world saw a chance for change.

"We hope that perhaps the cardinals when they meet will follow the first non-Italian pope by electing the first African pope," Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Sunday from Cape Town, South Africa.

Many Catholics in poor countries said a pope from their own regions would better understand the challenges they face, and would make the church more relevant in the lives of its increasingly diverse followers.

Tuesday Update:
another AP story pushing this angle and repeating the Tutu assertions. This became a common coverage angle in the last 24 hours.


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