The spiritual Rottweiler, Pope Benedict XVI, is knackered. Just short of eight years into his papacy, the “R” bomb has been dropped on the Holy See; resurrecting a tradition established by Pope Gregory XII in 1415. Citing a deterioration of “strength [in] mind and body,” our man Benny will stand down at the end of February, passing down the velvet slippers to the next Supreme Pontiff. At Africa is a Country, we rarely concern ourselves with the arcane intrigue of St. Peter’s, where men dressed as wizards claim special channels of communication with God. It’s not really our business to tread where others are so demonstrably better suited. But speculation has it that the reeling Conclave of Cardinals may select from among their brethren a black to lead the Church into the light.

A black star rises in the South in the form of Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson (who has some good politics; he’s a critic of the IMF, neoliberalism and promote an overhaul of the global finance system). If selected, the Cardinal of Cape Coast will in fact be Africa’s fourth Pope, following in the footsteps of Victor I (AD 189-199), Miltiades (311-314), and Gelasius (492-496).

Given the Church’s decline in its European heartlands, it makes some PR sense to take on a man from the global South, where catholic dogma remains comparatively relevant. Just under half of all Catholics now hail from Latin America (30%) and Africa (15%).

Let’s just hope that unlike another of Ghana’s sons, he isn’t welcomed to Italy as another “family nigger”.

(For the record, if Africa is a Country is invited to join the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel cum clave, we’ll strongly counsel for the empopement of Stephen Keshi, who resigned as coach of Nigeria’s national football team yesterday. Don’t be deceived by his lack of ecclesiastical experience: Keshi would plainly be the best pick as the next Vicar of Christ. Having brought Nigeria together, a billion or so Roman Catholics would be a walk in the park for Big Boss, and he’d also be the first man ever to achieve Sainthood before becoming pontiff — only a miracle worker could win the Nations Cup with the Super Eagles these days.)

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.