Africa: Prospects of a New Pope

Africa is the fastest-growing region for a church with 1.2 billion members worldwide. The number of baptized Catholics on the continent more than tripled between 1980 and 2010 to 185.6 million, offsetting a decline in the flock in Europe and slower growth in the U.S. The shifting Catholic demographics and the African faithful’s conservative social values have helped make Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson one of the favorites to succeed Benedict XVI.


Tomorrow the 115 voting Cardinals, including 11 Africans, will be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel to begin their secret conclave to choose a new pope. Given that more than half were appointed by Benedict, with the rest named by John Paul II, there is little reason to expect a new pope to be any more progressive on social issues, especially if he’s African.


Much of the opening day of the conclave is taken up by prayer and there may be a single vote in the afternoon, limiting the chance for a decision tomorrow. On the following days, the Cardinals will cast as many as four ballots.


More than 80% of Africans believe their continent is ready for an African pope, but only 61% believe the world is, an exclusive survey for CNN has found.


The survey of 20,000 Africans from 11 nations, carried out on mobile phones by mobile technology company Jana, also found that 86% thought an African pope would increase support for Catholicism in Africa.


Almost two-thirds of those surveyed thought that the Vatican was ready for an African pontiff, while more than 50% believed the church would become more conservative under an African pope.


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