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Amir Shakoor wrote:

Hi, guys —

I've been confused about this for a long time.

  • Why have Popes always come from a white, European background?

I'd love to see any Pope from Asia, Africa or South America.

Please let me know what you think on this issue.



  { Why have Popes always come from a white, European background? }

John replied:

Dear Amir,

Thanks for your question.

The Pope is the pope by virtue of the fact that he is elected Bishop of Rome and therefore the Successor of St. Peter. For centuries, the Popes were Italian. Prior to John Paul II, it had been four hundred years since the last non-Italian Pope was elected. There were various reasons for this:

  • Some were obvious
  • in some cases, certain human political influences were involved
  • in other cases, there were practical reasons
  • and some of it was simply odds.

Most of the Cardinals were Italians, if not, they were European. That's because there were more dioceses in Italy and Europe than in South America, Africa or Asia.

North Africa and Asia (especially in the Middle East), where there were more Christians, were more likely to have Eastern Rite populations and bishops. That said, the probability of electing an Eastern Bishop or Patriarch as Patriarch of the West were slim, but that's not to say it didn't happen.

As I stated, the Pope is the Successor of Peter. Peter was a Jew from Israel. There were others from North Africa and the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the election of the Pope, is about finding the right person to lead the Church for that particular period of time. It is a process that, although not free from human politics,
is meant to be lead by the Holy Spirit. While it might be nice to see a Pope from Africa or South America, the nationalities of the Popes are irrelevant to their role as Popes. Whether he is Italian or Lebanese is not important. What's important is that it's the Holy Spirit or God's choice, and that the Pope:

  • submit to the Holy Spirit
  • be Holy, and
  • act like the universal Pastor of the Church, while at the same time pastoring his own flock as Bishop of Rome.

A Bishop that cannot speak to his immediate flock is confronted with serious difficulties.

So there are many factors which enter into this decision. The least important is the man's race, nationality or place of birth. The Cardinals guided by the Holy Spirit are electing a Pope.

This is not about making a politically correct choice to appease the third world.


Mike replied:

Hi, Amir —

Thanks for the question.

As my colleague John stated on the Holy Spirit's choice for a future pope:
The least important is the man's race, nationality or place of birth.

Obviously the Holy Spirit does not discriminate. If that were the case, we would be calling God a racist.

Nevertheless, in my personal opinion, there are some fine choices that the Holy Spirit could choose from for future popes.  The one that comes immediately to my mind is Cardinal Francis Arinze.He is from Southeastern Nigeria, Africa.

I've heard this guy and boy is he great! He is currently the head of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He was also President of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and was considered papabile or electable, obviously among fellow cardinals, before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Benedict XVI.

Here is his Face book page. He has several videos on it to boot:

His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze

My favorite ones are:

  1. Kneeling, Kneelers, Altar Rails, and Cardinal Arinze
  2. More on Kneeling for Communion Cardinal Arinze

Hope this helps,


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