African reaction to Pope Benedict's resignation announcement is partly focused on whether his successor could come from the continent.
Two West African cardinals, Peter Turkson of Ghana, and Francis Arinze of Nigeria, are considered to be among the top candidates to replace Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church. Bookmakers in Britain name both men as likely favorites in the upcoming election by the church's College of Cardinals, along with Marc Ouellet of Canada.
Born in Ghana, Cardinal Turkson, 64, is former archbishop of Cape Coast, in Ghana's central region. Now based at the Vatican, he serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Turkson sparked controversy at a gathering of bishops last October, when he screened a video called "Muslim Demographics," which claims Muslims will eventually take over parts of Europe because of immigration and high birth rates. The church distanced itself from the video, saying it does not express the view of the Vatican.
Cardinal Arinze, 80, hails from southern Nigeria, where he spent 18 years as archbishop in the city of Onitsha. He is known for engaging in interreligious dialogue. In 1999, Arinze received an award from the International Council of Christians and Jews for "outstanding achievement in inter-faith relations."
A growing percentage of the Catholic Church's members come from Africa and South America, and many analysts say cardinals could be ready to select the church's next leader from one of those continents.
If either Turkson or Arinze is elected, he would become the first non-European leader in the Catholic Church's history.
Many Nigerians Hope an African Becomes Next Pope
After Pope Benedict the 16th announced he will retire later this month, Nigerian clergy are saying God, not people, chooses the leader of the Catholic church. However, many people in Nigeria think its about time for an African pope.
Outside Holy Trinity Church, one of the Nigerian capital's most influential Catholic parishes, Reverend Mathew Maleek says talk about the nationality of the next pope is a political question, not a religious question.
"The church of God has continued to survive by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, it is the spirit of God that chooses who he wants. It's not like politics," he said.
Maleek said Pope Benedict should be praised for stepping down gracefully in his advanced age of 85.
At a cyber cafe on the other side of town, Emmanuel Iweka, a contractor and a Catholic, agrees that God's choice for pope cannot be wrong. But, he says, it seems like it could be time for an African pope. He says Africans pray to take leadership roles in the Church the same way they once prayed to take leadership roles in football.
"That's what we are praying for. We are praying for that. We pray that one day it may come, just like what happened in South Africa World Cup last time ," he said.
Iweka would be proud, he says, if 80-year-old Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian, becomes the next pope. Cardinal Arinze was considered a top contender in 2005, when Benedict was elected, and he now has Pope Benedict's old job as Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, in Italy.
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VOA News. "Two Africans Among Candidates for Next Pope "