Latin America, Africa, Asia under-represented among Catholic cardinals


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

Source: Reuters/Vision

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%)
Africa (15%)
Asia (11%)
Oceania (1%)
Worldwide (100%)

Source: Pontifical Yearbook 2011

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?

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  1. Anil,

    Just to share this…

    Has there ever been a black pope in Rome?

    No All Popes have been caucasian (White)
    Most have been Italian
    There have been three African popes. lists them:
    Pope Victor I (189 to 199)
    Pope Miltiades (310/311 to 314)
    Pope Gelasius I (492 to 496)

    Their actual race is not known, however, but at least Miltiades appears to have been a native of Africa.

    Read more:
    Read more:

    North Africa: Three Little-Known African Popes
    Otsieno Namwaya

    4 April 2005 – Nairobi — There were three African Popes who came from a region of North Africa where the people were predominately Negro and are still Negroid today.

    Although there are no authentic portraits of these popes, there are drawings and references in the Catholic Encyclopedia as to their being of African background.

    The names of the three African Popes are: Victor (189-203 A.D.), Gelasius (492-496 A.D.), and Melchiades or Miltiades (311-314 A.D.). All are saints. North Africa: Three Little-Known African Popes –

    There were not three Black popes . . . per se

    Actually, there have been (at least) three popes of African descent, all of whom lived, pontificated and died before “blackness” was a societally recognized and accepted social construction.

    So, why am I so nitpicky on this subject? Because “blackness” as a socio-political identity is a relatively new construction — along with “race” itself (versus nationality or ethnicity).

    So, these three popes of African descent were essentially pre-Black.

    And therefore, Jesus wasn’t “white”:

    1) because he pre-dated what would centuries later be deemed “white” and
    2) he was much more likely resembled a modern-day Ethiopian or Somalian than Jim Caviezel or Willem Dafoe.

    Afro-Netizen: There were not three Black popes . . . per se –

    Oct 6, 2009 – A press conference in the Vatican. Cardinal Turkson: ‘A black Pope? Why not?’

    Cardinal Turkson: ‘A black Pope? Why not?’ – YouTube –

    Comments (32) – YouTube

    Oct – 25, 2009 Pope Benedict has appointed an African Cardinal to a top Vatican job, raising hopes for a future black Pope.
    Peter Cardinal Turkson was named the new head of the justice and peace commission of the Vatican. Cardinal Turkson says the prospect of a black pope is not far fetched.
    Gearing for an African Pope? – YouTube –

    You be the judge.


  2. Sad to say that the much of Christianity/catholicism in Europe & the West have been modified to give it an European/Italian touch. The source of Spirituality & Divinity from the birth place of Jesus has been somewhat buried.
    The recently created concept of “PURGATORY”, when they found that they needed a place to put souls in after death. What next?

    In a simplistic way, the analogy of field hockey played until 1980s and the total overhaul of the rules & format after the Europeans took over the game.
    In computer terms, we have the TRUE/FALSE and fuzzy logic in between. The Vatican has some how removed the “Fuzzy Logic” aspect & want to make it a “IF… THEN… ELSE…” religion.


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