Come 18 February, Europe will have more than half the total number of cardinal electors even though Latin America, Africa and Asia account for more than two thirds of the global Catholic population.
The latest position after Pope Benedict’s latest appointment of 18 new cardinal electors (those cardinals below 80 years of age, who are thus eligible to elect a new pope):
Europe – 67 (53% of the total cardinal electors)
Latin America – 22 (18%)
North America – 15 (12%)
Africa – 11 (9%)
Asia – 9 (7%)
Oceania – 1 (1%)
Total – 125 (100%) cardinal electors
Compare that with the spread of the global Catholic population of 1.2bn:
Europe (24% of total Catholics worldwide)
Americas (49%) (North America had only 7% of Catholics worldwide in 2000 – Source: Beliefnet; if that’s the case Latin America has 42%)
Why the heavy weighting for Europe (much has been said about Europe’s ‘Christian roots’), which reduces the likelihood of a non-European pope, when the birthplace of Christianity is Palestine/Israel? Moreover, the Catholic population outside Europe, especially in Africa and Asia, is expanding at the fastest pace.
So when will we see a pope from outside Europe? Read this opinion piece from the All Africa website: Is God unhappy with an African becoming pope?
More serious than the geographical representation of cardinals is the question of whether more and more conservative cardinals are being selected while progressive voices are marginalised. This should be seen against a larger backdrop: are the progressive reforms charted out by the ground-breaking Vatican Council II gradually being rolled back?