Desmond Tutu calls for election of African pope

NB this story is also covered in the article Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for African Pope.Monday, April 4, 2005 Retired Anglican Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu has called for the Catholic church to appoint an African as new pope. "We hope the cardinals when they meet will follow the first non-Italian pope by electing the first African pope," said Tutu on SABC TV at a press conference in his Cape Town home.

Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze, currently number four in the church hierarchy, is seen as the best hope for a pope from the third world. If Arinze is elected he will become the first African pope since Gelasius I in 496 AD.

"There should be democracy in the Catholic Church. Europeans should allow an African to become the next pope," said 21 year old Nigerian student, Ifeoma Ezinwa, at the Saint Monica Catholic Church in Igbogbo, Lagos. "The church is growing in Africa. If Arinze gets to that position, he would work for its faster growth," she continued.

However Steve Uwagba, a Nigerian accountant, thought that "International politics in the church may not allow him to get the papal seat. The odds of international politics and conspiracy against Africa weigh heavily against him."

Africa mourns

Tutu also added that "We know that [the pope] was a champion for world peace. And more than any other pope [he] went around the world galvanizing the faithful who turned out in droves to meet him. We also want to pay tribute to him for his concern for the unity of humankind. He was the first Pope, I think, to gather together ... leaders of other Christian denominations, calling them to prayer for the world,"

The archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane - Tutu's successor - offered his condolences to the world's catholics. "Our sincerest condolences go out to Catholics worldwide on the death of their great leader. We thank God for his ministry and that he has now been relieved from pain,"

Father Stephen Chukwu of St Augustine's church in Ikorodu on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria said to a congregation of three thousand, "The whole world is standing still. People are held spellbound because the mighty has fallen. The whole church mourns because a leader and a revolutionary has gone," he told the crowd, many of whom wept and sobbed.

"Who would ever believe that a pope could come from outside Rome? He was an ideal man and he led an ideal life. He held tenaciously to the teachings of the Apostles. He was against killing and abortion," he declared. He was not a friend of the wealthy or the mighty. He was a friend of those in the gutters. He preached and fought for democracy.

After mass Mary Okoli, a 42 year old teacher said "My hope and prayer is that we get an African, especially a Nigerian, to replace him and continue his good work," "We are particularly grateful for the attention he paid to Africa and the developing world during his papacy. His concern for the poor marked him as a truly caring leader and we share the grief and loss of the Catholic Church at his passing. We also pray for the Catholic Church as it contemplates the election of the next Vicar of Christ," he said in a statement.