Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What If: A Nigerian Pope?

When Karol Wojtila was chosen as Pope John Paul II, the political value was immediately apparent.  The Polish pope was an old hand at resisting communists, and was a strong voice in the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet empire.

With that in mind, I have been thinking about what might have been: a pope from sub-Saharan Africa, the front lines of the world-wide struggle between militant Islam and Christianity.  (NOTE: I am not saying there is a struggle between all of Islam and Christianity.) 

I have no objection to the newly chosen Argentine pope, and no brief for any particular African bishop.

I am glad that the cardinals did not go with a Curia insider, or indeed with any European.  And it certainly makes sense to finally pick someone from the most Catholic continent.  But, in a sense, a South American is a safe choice.  A Nigerian would have shifted the world power balance in one of the great cultural struggles of our time. At least a little.


Sister Edith Bogue said...

Contrary to what the press assumed, he took the name Francis after St Francis Xavier, one of 8 first Jesuits. He traipsed off to India and Japan. Perhaps he has some of that spirit himeself.

There is also something to be said for an outsider voice in the struggle of militant Islam and Christianity.

I am glad to see that the internationalizing approach continued. We were all so stunned that JPII was not Italian, and that a bit surprised that a German came next. Now we aren't very surprised at a non-European.

gruntled said...

I am glad to know that he meant Francis Xavier. That makes more sense for a Jesuit. And I don't think Francis of Assisi had much use for popes.

Dennis Evans said...

I am a bit disappointed that it wasn't for Francis of Assisi, but Xavier was brilliant and the Jesuits have a special tradition of communicating and teaching in the context of other cultures and establishing rapport with them. and a cooking for himself/riding the bus kind of guy with experience with the curia is another kind of bridge. I wish him the best.

Ethan Epping said...

It appears that the name was actually chosen in honor of Francis of Assisi. From what I've read about our new pope, he seems to admire Francis of Assisi's lifestyle. Either would be an excellent exemplar, in my opinion.