Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The next pope

Irish Bookmakers Take Bets on Next Pope. Leave it to the Irish. (Fair disclosure: I am half Irish and descended from Brian Boru.)

OK, I'll take a stab at this, and will be sure to end up with egg on my face. My bet is the Nigerian, Francis Arinze. The money quote from AP:

"Arinze, 72, converted to Roman Catholicism as a child and shares some of John Paul's conservative views on contraception and family issues. But he brings a unique element: representing a nation shared between Muslims and Christians at the time when interfaith relations assumes growing urgency."

First, he's a convert. I think this will play well as the Catholic Church is renewing attention on winning converts and reuniting Christians. The conservative aspect should be a plus also. Sure, the talking heads on TV keep saying the cardinals like to alternate things, so they will likely choose a moderate successor. But these cardinals were appointed by JP2, and I don't think he would have chosen the theologically wishy-washy for such promotions. Also, not just interfaith relations is taking on a growing urgency, but an in-depth understanding of Islam is also. After a five-century haitus from conquest since being halted at southeastern Europe, some in the world of Islam think the time has come to resume advancing their faith at the point of a sword. 9-11 showed us that an ancient threat to Western civilization is reappearing, and it must be understood to be dealt with. In fact, as Wretchard points out, the appointment of a black pope would harken back to the days when North Africa was Christian, again emphasizing the universal nature of the Catholic Church and expressing a desire to win back that which was lost. Finally, at 72 the Nigerian should fill the need some see for a "caretaker" pope, i.e. someone who will not occupy the Chair of Peter for another quarter century, but serve for a briefer period.

John Paul II took Catholicism out of the Vatican and brought it to the world. I don't expect that the cardinals will elect someone who will let that effort go to waste. Catholicism in Western Europe and North America is threatened by apathy and theological revisionism. The Third World is the future. My money is on Arinze.

Update: Tom Oden has similar thoughts on the issues confronting the next pope, and thoughts on Catholic-evangelical relations.

Update 2: 4/6 NewsMax is also thinking along similar lines:

"Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria has been based at the Vatican for decades, but spent his youth amid the country's mix of Christian and Muslims. The Vatican is also alarmed about inter-religious clashes in Nigeria that have claimed thousands of lives since the late 1990s. But Arinze would require a history-shaping act by the generally conservative College of Cardinals: naming the first African pope in modern times."

I don't think race is as big a deal to most as it is to Americans though.

Update 2: 4/6 Part Deux: Jeff the Baptist has his own trenchant take: "Hopefully he won't be followed up by some stupid Italian."