Two Highly Educated Black Men Are Among the Favorites to Be the Next Pope

Cardinal Turkson
Cardinal Turkson

The impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has led to the speculation that the College of Cardinals will look to a member from the developing world to lead the church. While membership in Europe and North American is on the decline, the Church has seen tremendous growth in Latin America, Africa, and in some Asian countries.

Two Black cardinals have been mentioned as possible candidates for the papacy. Peter Turkson is a cardinal from Ghana and currently is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Now 64 years old, Cardinal Turkson studied at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he earned a master’s degree. Dr. Turkson earned a doctorate in sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He was named archbishop of Cape Coast in 1992 and was elevated to cardinal in 2003.

Another leading candidate is Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. Now 80 years old, Arinze has spent the last quarter century at the Vatican. His age does not necessarily work against him. In the past, older cardinals have emerged as a compromise candidate because the conclave knows that it won’t be long before they have a chance to select another Pontiff.

Arinze is the former president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Currently he serves as the Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, the same post the current Pope held before he was elevated to the papacy.

Cardinal Arinze holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from the Pontifical Urban University. In 1965, at the age of 32, he became the youngest Catholic bishop in the world.

Bookmakers in London, now rate Turkson and Arinze as the two leading candidates for Pope.

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