While the Catholic Church adapts to the sudden news that their pontiff will resign at the end of the month after only eight years at the supreme seat of power at the Vatican, predictions and aspirations abound. Wishes to name a first-ever Canadian pope, Cardinal Marc Ouellette, have been expressed -- on the cover of the Washington Post, no less.
But has anyone considered demographics?
In fact, according to a 2004 Boston College Magazine study, fully 50 per cent of the world's Catholics are Latino (including the United States' Latino community).
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Indeed, the religion imposed by the colonizers since Christopher Columbus reached "Indian" land has spread across the Americas. Colonizers introduced horses, a host of diseases, and also homophobia to the indigenous peoples. In addition, the Europeans whipped their African slaves into adopting their religious doctrine. Five-hundred years on, Latin America accounts for almost half of the world's Catholics.
Africa has also experienced colonization through which ancient belief systems and native traditions were supplanted by Euro-centric religions and intense homophobia (which has yet to be relinquished). Approximately 15 per cent of the 1.2-billion Catholics in the world live in Africa.
According to the Vatican, for every 100 seminarians in the world at the end of 2005, 32 were from the Americas, 26 were Asian, 21 African, 20 European and one from Oceania. "It could be time for a black pope, or a yellow one, or a red one, or a Latin American," said Guatemala's Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales after Benedict's announcement.
Despite the changing face of the catholic parishes, the apartheid-formula has yielded a pontiff of European heritage. It appears only one gender is deemed worthy of this position of influence.
While scandals continue to shake the Catholic Church, whether in mitigation of child rape, contempt for homosexuals, or denying positions of power to women, it still holds a place of influence in several nations. The Pope remains a powerful symbol for millions of people. Are many among them praying for a pontiff who shares their pedigree? Pienso que si.