Turkson wouldn’t be first African pope

Yesterday morning a Lutheran friend sent me an email joking that he was “off Team Turkson” on account of Turkson campaigning for the job of pope. That would be Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson. Now, I realize just how unseemly it is for a churchman to campaign for any job but this may be an unfair reading of an interview Turkson gave in the Telegraph.

Some media outlet called The Week pretty much just recycled someone else’s work into their story headlined “Peter Turkson not shy about his wish to become first black Pope.”

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”.

The article then quotes Queerty — noted experts on all things papal.

Anyway, where, oh where, to begin.

First off would be my question as to why The Week contends Turkson would be the first black pope.

I know of at least three African popes and I don’t believe I’ve heard anything about their skin color. I have heard that Victor I — the first African pope — was the first black pope but I don’t think that’s been proven. Apparently skin color is a more modern obsession. As for Miltiades and Gelasius I — and any other African popes — no reports on their skin color.

Does anyone have a good answer on this?

I’m seeing this “first black pope” thing all over the place. I’m not sure the history can confirm such a claim regarding Turkson.

But it’s that last paragraph that is so bizarre.

I think I could write a book on the use and misuse of the word “despite” in journalism. Why in the world would surprising candor be in conflict with being “quick” to uphold Catholic teaching — I’m sorry, let me translate that into mainstream-media-speak — to “take a conservative line on controversial issues” that the media are obsessed with? Sigh.

I also have to share something I’d like to share that I came across elsewhere — a journalist’s guide to the papal election:

  • The College of Cardinals is not responsible for fielding a winning baseball team in the city of St. Louis.
  • Yes, this is an election. No, there are no primaries. Yes, there are debates. No, you may not cover them. And no, Catholics in New Hampshire do not vote first.
  • Smoke signals at the end of each vote are not a personal affront to  Native Americans.
  • Neither Cardinal Francis Arinze or Cardinal Peter Turkson may be referred to as “African American.” They are not Americans. And the term “African” does not mean the color of their skin. Charlize Theron is African, too.
  • Yes, the next Pope will be a man and a Catholic.

As for the last one — not if the media can help it!

  • http://www.geographictravels.com Catholicgauze

    Of the 265 popes, only 11 were born outside of Europe with two (up to five) being of a non-European ethnic group. Victor and his two fellow African popes were probably either of Italian descent or Berber, but probably not Black as Black Africa is to the south of were they were from.

    For more information I did a geography blog post on non-European popes http://www.geographictravels.com/2013/02/map-of-non-european-popes.html

    • Elbert Walton

      Only white Europeans would try to make black Africans, “Italian”, “Berber”, “Carthaginian”, any thing but what they are, BLACK! Why would Europe be full of Black Madonnas and child except for the fact that Eurpeans were introduced to Christianity by black Africans, and thus early Christians believed Jesus and Mary to black. To the extent that a majority of Africans living north of the Sahara are now “white” in complexion is a result of 1,000′s of years of European — Greeks, Romans, Europeans — incursions and invasions into North Africa. Egyptians, Carthagenians, Berbers, and Hebrews were all black! So was Jesus of Nazareth who is described in the Christian Bible with skin the color of brass and hair like wool. That is the description of a black African not a white one. Since racism did not rule the world at the time, no one was described back then by the color of their skin. However, sculptures 0f the individuals clearly show “negroid” features and when they colored themselves in pictures, they colored themselves, black and brown, not white. Judaism and Christianity were founded by black people. The religion was hijacked by white Europeans. Religion itself is but a fantasy and so is the effort on the part of Europeans in and out of Europe to fantasize that Ancient people of Africa at the time of the founding of the Christian church were white.

  • http://www.tobextended.com IC

    The Telegraph does have someone come in and do a nice puncturing of the media treatment this week.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100202815/pope-benedict-xvi-resigns-the-mainstream-media-just-doesnt-get-god-or-catholicism/

    Turkson doesn’t say anything in that article about wanting the position–just that he’s thought of the changes it would bring. Since many are calling him a frontrunner, he’d have to be a fool not to have thought of it. But that’s different from wanting it.

  • http://www.tobextended.com IC

    I don’t know about first, second, third, or fourth African popes, but I know some people have been invested suggesting St . Augustine of Hippo was possible a Black African. The truth is we do not know, but its unlikely–much more likely he was Arab-African (from Carthage after all). You can legitimately call Augustine a son of Africa but I don’t think this is what the media, or most casual listeners, think of when they think “African.”

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  • Julia

    IC: I wonder if Tim Stanley reads this blog?

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  • http://www.tobextended.com IC
  • Julia

    IC: The comments on that Washington Post article are about the worst I have ever seen.
    The article itself was very interesting.

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    I think the inclusion of the “Idiot Journalist’s Guide to the Papal Election” is hilarious…..especially since i just saw a headline for E.J. Dionne WaPo opinion piece yesterday:

    “The best choice for pope? A nun.”

    Isn’t he supposed to be a Catholic? Go figure.

  • Skittle

    “Some media outlet called The Week pretty much just recycled someone else’s work into their story”

    The Week is a reputable magazine, published weekly, whose entire purpose is to summarise the media coverage of the news stories of the week. They pick the big news stories, and summarise how different media outlets covered them. They take the main talking-point articles, and summarise them with quotes and paraphrases (and name of the journalist and outlet).

    So of course they recycled the Telegraph article: it’s what they do.

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    “African” does not necessarily mean black skin. Africa has the greatest genetic diversity of any continent. Some ancient Nubians were black and some were red. Many of the Nilotic Ainu had green eyes.

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