By Leah Dearborn
Following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on February 28th, the elaborate process of electing a new leader of the Catholic Church will begin.
There has been some speculation that the Vatican might elect its first ever non-European pontiff in the next ballot. The New York Times reports on the changing demographics of the church:
Today, 42 percent of adherents come from Latin America, and about 15 percent from Africa, versus only 25 percent from Europe. That has led many in the church to say that the new pope should represent a part of the world where membership is growing quickly, while others say that spiritual vision should be paramount.
Popular candidates include 2 cardinals from Argentina, another from Ghana, and a Canadian Archbishop. Voice of America published an article on the Ghanian cardinal and his views regarding the upcoming vote:
When the pontiff made his historic announcement, becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign, analysts were quick to come up with lists of candidates most likely to replace him. Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, was on many of those lists. But he says such expectations are often unrealistic.
“This is not a United Nations affair. Neither is this an AU affair,” said Cardinal Turkson. “It is nothing which is purely political. It’s nothing which is purely continental and stuff. This is essentially an exercise of the Catholic Church, ok ? And it certainly does have influence, you know as widespread and all of that. But it is essentially a church affair.”
An electoral body known as the papal conclave will convene to cast a vote in the Vatican sometime before Easter of this year. Only cardinals beneath the age of 80 may vote, and they are free to elect any baptized man, or any man willing to be baptized. A two-thirds plus one majority used to be required to win the papal election, but that changed under John Paul II to an absolute majority of the first 30 votes.