[Paleopsych] AP: Prospect of Third World Pope Excites Some

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Prospect of Third World Pope Excites Some

    Filed at 8:06 a.m. ET

    MEXICO CITY (AP) -- As cardinals rushed to the Vatican on Sunday to
    begin the process of selecting a new pope, many back home were asking
    a pointed question: If most of the world's Roman Catholics live in the
    developing world, why has every pope been European?

    The possibility that the next pope could come from Latin America,
    Africa or Asia is creating a buzz from Mexico City to Manila, from
    Tegucigalpa to Kinshasa. Many Latin American Catholics said the only
    way to improve on a papacy they overwhelmingly supported would be to
    select someone from their own ranks.

    Their hopes were fueled by the last papal conclave, in which a Polish
    archbishop became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, as well as
    by the global outreach John Paul II made the cornerstone of his
    papacy. They also have been boosted by sheer numbers: Half the world's
    1 billion Roman Catholics live in Latin America alone, and the church
    is seeing explosive growth in Africa and Asia.

    Even outside Roman Catholicism, leaders from the developing world saw
    a chance for change.

    ``We hope that perhaps the cardinals when they meet will follow the
    first non-Italian pope by electing the first African pope,'' Anglican
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Sunday from Cape Town, South Africa.

    Many Catholics in poor countries said a pope from their own regions
    would better understand the challenges they face, and would make the
    church more relevant in the lives of its increasingly diverse

    ``It will further help the church, whose membership is growing fastest
    in Asia, Africa and Latin America, if a new pope emerges from one of
    those areas,'' said Isidore Chukwuemeka, a Catholic in Lagos, Nigeria.
    ``That will help build loyalty in the universal church and reassure
    people that the rich countries are not calling the shots.''

    While several names from developing countries have been mentioned as
    candidates, it is unclear what kind of chance Third World religious
    leaders stand. Only 21 of the cardinals eligible to vote on the new
    pontiff are from Latin America and the Caribbean, and only 11 from
    Africa, compared with 58 from Europe alone.

    The Dominican Republic's Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez,
    who will participate in the conclave, said the next pope should be
    oriented toward Latin America, but he stopped short of saying the
    pontiff should be a native of the region.

    ``The majority of Catholics in the world are in Latin America, so
    whoever is elected should focus on this continent,'' Lopez Rodriguez
    told reporters after celebrating a Mass at Santo Domingo Cathedral.

    Hundreds of Dominicans cheered and wished the 68-year-old cardinal
    well after the Mass, with many chanting ``we hope they pick you.''

    Vatican observers disagree over the amount of pressure there will be
    to return the papacy to an Italian -- Italy still has 20 voting-age
    cardinals, by far the largest group -- or whether the conclave could
    expand the message of universality by selecting a candidate from a
    developing country.

    Church leaders insist the cardinals' decision will not be based on a
    geographical calculation. The candidates, they say, will be judged by
    their faith and their ability to lead.

    ``It won't matter where he comes from, from which continent,'' Sao
    Paulo, Brazil Archbishop Claudio Hummes, who is often mentioned as a
    candidate, said Friday after Mass.

    ``It will matter that the cardinals will be in front of God, under
    oath, and they will have to choose the one they think is the man for
    this moment in the history of the church and the world.''

    But across the globe, many of the faithful suggested that kind of talk
    was merely diplomacy.

    ``We hope that his successor will be a black person from the African
    continent,'' said Patrique Ngoma, a 20-year-old student attending Mass
    in Kinshasa, Congo.

    ``It would be better to have a Latin American pope, someone on our
    side,'' said Anjelica Navarro, 30, as she cooked up blue-corn
    tortillas stuffed with fragrant meat and onions at a stand in downtown
    Mexico City.

    Andres Nunez, 67, who co-owns a nearby hardware store, was more blunt:
    ``It's about time we got something!''

    But beyond the national rivalries, many said a Latin American pope
    would help the church counter Protestant evangelism, and a Third World
    pope with roots among the poor would be better able to respond to the
    most pressing needs of his flock.

    ``As an African, he would be able to better engage himself in the
    battle against poverty, which he himself would know and have
    conquered,'' Ngoma said.

    Jorge Rouillon, who writes on religious issues for the Argentine daily
    La Nacion, said choosing a Third World candidate for the papacy would
    make the church appear more in tune with the modern world.

    ``He could be the image of a universal church that we have seen more
    of in recent years,'' he said.

    Some Catholics in developing countries, despite their faith in the
    church, were pessimistic about the chances of seeing a non-European
    pope. They accused the church of racism.

    ``I doubt that the white man will allow a black man to become pope,''
    said Chinyere Osigwe, 40, at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Lagos.

    Others, while wishing for a pope from their own ranks, simply lowered
    their expectations. Andrea Villaruel, 36, begged for pocket change for
    her 11 children on the steps of the San Isidro Cathedral in Buenos
    Aires, Argentina, and praised the last pope for speaking so many

    ``John Paul II has been one of the greatest,'' she said. ``Well, I
    hope the next one also speaks Spanish.''


    Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bill
    Cormier in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Freddy Cuevas in Tegucigalpa,
    Honduras; Eddy Isango in Kinshasa, Congo; Dulue Mbachu in Lagos,
    Nigeria; Peter Muello in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Will Weissert in
    Mexico City; and David Koop in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed to
    this story.

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