Next Pope, Will Race and Skin Color Matter in Choosing the Leader of the Catholics?

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As the world ponders and debates the motive and sincerity of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, names of potential successors to become the 266th Pope have also cropped up. And this time it seems, the papacy is ripe to break traditions and give a non-European a chance to lead the Catholic Church struggling for relevance these days. 

Some of the contenders being eyed to replace Pope Benedict XVI are high profile Cardinals that come from Africa, South America and Asia. Names include Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, Canada's Marc Ouellet, Francis Arinze from Nigeria, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, an Archbishop in Honduras and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, among others.

"I think many people fail to realise the Catholic Church is not a euro-centric Church, it's a universal church. There is great vibrancy and life in the church in Africa and also in Asia," Brian Lucas, General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, was quoted by SBS.

Moreso that most of the world's Catholics, at 1.2 billion, live in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific and are considered more conservative than their North American and European counterparts.

Observers believe it is only reasonable to choose a pope from a part of the world where the Catholic church is revered, growing as well as vibrant, rather than from Europe where the secular faith is declining.

"Europe is no longer the stronghold of faith that it once was," Father Lucas said. "It's been the cradle of Christianity, but the secularity and consumerism of modern years, perhaps, has weakened the faith of many in that part of the world."

"By choosing a brown pope, as it were, they would send a real message, a remarkable statement to the wider church," David Gibson, author of The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, told NPR.

Read more:

Pope Benedict's Resignation, and How It Could Affect the Tenure of Next Generation Popes

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