Peter Turkson not shy about his wish to become first black Pope

Feb 13, 2013

He's the bookies' favourite to replace Pope Benedict but his conservative views won't please the Left

getty images

CARDINAL Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate who is hotly-tipped to become the next Pope, has given a candid interview about the "life-changing" responsibility of leading the Catholic Church.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the 64-year-old bookies' favourite openly admitted he has pondered the possibility of becoming the first black Pope and what it would mean for himself and his church. He concedes it "would signal a lot of [personal] change. I have been an archbishop, which involved a certain amount of leadership, and now having to do this on a world level, the dimensions expand almost infinitely."

Bookmaker William Hill was today offering odds of 7/2 on Turkson becoming Pope, making him the joint favourite with Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Despite his surprising candour on the subject of succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, Turkson was "quick" to take a conservative line on controversial issues such as gay marriage and other "alternative lifestyles", the Telegraph says. He said the Catholic Church needed to find ways to "evangelise" or convert those who had embraced "alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues".

Turkson (pictured above in 2003 with Pope John Paul II) enjoys immense popularity in Ghana and the support of Pope Benedict – but he is not immune from controversy. He once screened a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and he infuriated health workers by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.

The US site PolicyMic points out that he doesn't rule out condoms in all circumstances, suggesting they can be "useful in the situation of a married, faithful couple where one partner is infected" with the virus.

The gay rights website Queerty branded Turkson "homophobic" today because, it claimed, he had "supported" legislation that oppressed lesbian and gays. "Should Turkson get the nod, it will be a great tragedy that the first man of colour to be named Bishop of Rome will be an inveterate bigot and ally to oppression," the website says.

But most social media commentators professed to be excited by the prospect of the Vatican appointing its first black Pope. One tweeted that the papal enclave should "release black smoke" if Turkson gets the job, rather than the traditional white plume.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour Party blogger Dan Hodges suggests that Turkson's election would be the liberal establishment's "worst nightmare". It would "mess with Left-wingers' heads" if a "Ghanian becomes the most influential black man on the planet, but also rejects the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV," writes Hodges.

He points out that while Turkson is a fierce critic of global capitalism and a strong advocate of banking reform - both rallying cries for the Left – he has dismissed African homophobia as "commensurate with tradition".

Hodges concludes: "The Occupy movement wouldn't know whether to adopt him or picket him."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

Cardinal Turkson has come out supporting a "global political entity" with regulatory powers to supposedly repair "inequalities" in the world. Sounds to me like a one-world socialist government, perhaps laying the groundwork for the Anti-Christ.

This article is factually inaccurate and should be corrected. All kinds of news articles discussing the possibility that a "first black pope" might be elected. I know I don't work for the Times, the Telegraph or the post, but do modern journalists not know how to google? Solid evidence that you have a responsibility to look deeper into what the media purports as being true. The Catholic Church has had three 'black' popes. Writes Dr. Camille Brown:
This litany of Black Catholics would not be complete without some acknowledgement of the three black popes. According to The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis), there were three popes from Africa. Pope St. Victor I was the first. He reigned from 186-197 A.D. as the 15th Pope. We should thank Pope Victor I for settling the controversy about when to celebrate Easter. Pope St. Militiades was the second pontiff from Africa. He reigned from 311-314 A.D. as the 32nd or 37th Pope (there are conflicting accounts as to his place in the Papal line). He was very busy during his tenure in the papacy while being consumed with promoting papal infallibility and writing hymns and epistles. The third African Pope was Pope St. Gelasius I who reigned from 492-496 A.D. as the 49th Pope. He was pope during a time of peace and religious toleration as Constantine became emperor and legalized Christianity. All three of these Catholic heroes embraced the faith with sincere hearts and complete devotion to our Lord and the Universal Church.

The very inference that he would be 'campaigning' to be the first 'black pope' which btw is historically inaccurate as there have been other black popes in the distant past. Would in itself probably exclude him from being in consideration, as it is very much frowned upon to appear to be politicking for the position to begin with. Many prelates posed with the very question of their 'candidancy' would typically deflect or propose that the position is one that no one would outright politic for.

I am still trying to figure out how Turkson's saying that having to lead "on a world level [by which] the dimensions expand almost infinitely" somehow not only reveals his wish to become the first black pope, but also makes him not shy about that wish. There appears to be way too much journalistic license at work here by even inferring from that statement a wish to become pope on his part, let alone by stating such a wish as a given in the headline of this article, along with asserting that he is not shy about this "wish".

Actually none of those 3 were black. Yes, they were from Africa, but they were from then Roman controlled North Africa. None of the three were of Nubian stock. All 3 had some Berber blood which was likely intermixed with Roman, Pheonecian, Carthaginian, Macedonian,etc. (a mixture of many peoples from the Levant and southern Europe had colonized North Africa at various times) Just because someone if from Africa, it doesn't make him "black". So-called "Black Studies" historians and others disgrace themselves and their alleged scholarship when they make such a basic errror (They make the same error when trying to claim Cleopatra was black, even though she was a Ptolemy of Macedonian descent from the line of Alexander). Look at the portraits of those three early Popes - no hint of Black or Nubian blood.

It seems the prelate from Ghana if elected to be the successor to pope Benedict XVI will be the fourth African pope but the first black pope - colored pope- to be politically correct. However these interviews and clamoring indicate a down slide for the Catholic church in the sense, how temporal the throne of St.Peter has become.

Actually, evidence indicates all three were black. It is also a basic error to assume that because they came from Roman controlled Africa they might not be black without first looking at sources describing their family ancestry and the historical record.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, three popes-Pope St Victor I (ca186-198), Pope St Miltiades (311-14), and Pope St Gelasius (492-496)-were Africans. The Liber Pontificalis is composed of a series of biographical entries, which record the dates and important facts for each pope. It is the oldest and most detailed chronicle dating from the Early Church. The Liber Pontificalis is dated from the sixth century. The record of names begins with St Peter. As the work progressed the entries became longer and more detailed. The Liber Pontificalis continued to be written until 1431.1

The African popes in question are said to have come from the North African area that is present-day Algeria, Mauretania, Numidia, and Tunisia. Historians name this area the maghreb. Today it is mostly Muslim. The indigenous people of North Africa are Berbers, brown skinned as among the Tuaregs and Algerians. By the time of Pope Victor I, the Roman aristocracy had large land holdings on the Mediterranean coast. Carthage was the center.2 The language was Latin. The Berbers lived in the rural areas and the larger towns. Carthage was the primacy. Small scattered dioceses in the rural areas. The indigenous population, the Berbers, gradually accepted Christianity, but the details of evangelization are unclear.

Most historians today are of the opinion that Victor was a North African. He was the first Latin-speaking pope. He had to be persuaded to permit the Asian Churches of Syria to continue celebrating Easter on the 14th day of Nisan. Victor had desired to force the Asian churches to accept the Roman method of calculating the celebration of Easter, that is the first full moon on the Sunday after the vernal equinox. Contemporary with Victor I was Tertullian, the North African writer, who reworked Latin for expressing second-century theology. Just after the death of Victor I, St Perpetua and St Felicity underwent their martyrdom in Carthage (Perpetua was from the landowner class; Felicity the slave). The Scillian martyrs, first African martyrs put to death in Carthage just prior to the pontificate of Victor, with St Cyprian, the great bishop and martyr of Carthage martyred in 258 half a century after Victor. As one historian writes, it was "remarkable… that Latin should have won recognition as the language of African Christianity from the outset, while the Roman church was still using Greek."3 Although martyrdom was the great seal of African Christianity, most historians have concluded that Victor I was not martyred in Rome.

St Miltiades (311-14) is the second pope identified as an African. The Liber Pontificalis names him as born in Africa. More recent scholars consider that Miltiades was probably from an African family in Rome. In fact, Miltiades was pope in Rome at the time of the victorious battle of the Milvian Bridge when Constantine the Great defeated and killed Maxentius. With this victory, Constantine opened the way to the end of persecution of Christians. Miltiades is not recorded as making any intervention in drawing up the Edict of Milan that recognized the freedom of religion for all peoples. When the Donatists in North Africa had recourse against the Catholic Church, Constantine asked Miltiades to listen to their complaints. At this time the opposition in North Africa are called Donatists. They are the poor and the peasants. They make up the opposition to the well-to-do landholders. At present there is much study of the Donatists. These people are Berbers not Romans. Miltiades called a synod of bishops to examine the case. Historians have considered that Miltiades, seemingly an African, was chosen precisely because he had connection with the Church in North Africa.4

More recent historical studies consider that the question of Donatism in North Africa are not only doctrinal but also sociological, economic, and political factors. The schism continued after the death of Miltiades.

Finally, St Gelasius (492-496) is called an African in the Liber Pontificalis. In another document, Gelasius referred to himself as "born a Roman." It is suggested that he was of African family origin. He is known especially for his strained relationship with the Byzantine emperor Anastasius in Constantinople. Gelasius I unequivocally proclaimed his authority as pope over that of the emperor. The collection of liturgical prayers that bear his name belong to the seventh century.5

See The Liber Pontificalis. Texte, Introduction et Commentaire. Ed. Abbé L. Duchesne. 3 volumes. Paris: E. de Boccard, Editeurs. 1955.
The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis). The Ancient Biographies of the First Ninety Roman Bishops To A.D.715. Trans. Raymond Davis. Liverpool University Press, 1989.

See J. Desanges, "The Proto-Berbers" in the General History of Africa. II. Ancient Civilizations of Africa. Ed. G. Mokhtar. (Heinemann, CA: UNESCO. ) 423-440.

A. Mahjoubi, "The Roman and post-Roman period in North Africa," Ibid., 497.
See also: Victor Saxer, Pères saints et culte Chrétien dans l'Eglise des premiers siècles. "Victor. Titre d'honneur ou nom propre.." (VARIORUM 1994 Collected Studies Series CS446.) I, 217.
The Papacy. An Encyclopedia. s.v. "Victor I (189-99)." By Jean-Pierre Martin.
W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984) 290-91.
Finally, for the most recent studies, see Maureen A. Tillet, "North Africa" in The Cambridge History of Christianity. Origins to Constantine. Eds. Margaret Mitchell and Frances Young. 381-396. (Cambridge University Press, 2006.)

Frend, Rise of Christianity, 490-91. See also The Papacy. An Encyclopedia. s.v. "Miltiades (or Melchiades)." By Elisabeth Paoli. See also Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastiques. s.v. "Donat de Carthage." By J. Ferron.

The Papacy. An Encyclopedia. s.v. "Gelasius I." By Claire Soliner.

How delightful, (and enlightening) to be a subscriber to a paper with such truly knowledgable readers. Thank you all for the information on the 'black' popes. And to the person who thought that to describe someone as 'colored' was being politically correct, it is no more so than refusing to describe Chinese people as 'yellow'.

he wouldn't be the first black Pope. . .

This would be a disaster for the Church. Last one out, lock up after you!

Wouldn't be the 1st African, but will be 1st black pope if elected.

The Church is already a disaster...Peter the Great might be what saves it!

Thank you for the information!

Those that go into the conclave as Pope, almost always come out of it as Cardinal.