“If the Cardinals in the next Conclave elect a black Pope, he would be the first African Pope in over 1500 years, and perhaps the first black Pope ever. But why would the Cardinals have any concern for the ethnicity of the Pope? The Church is universal, and so it includes all ethnicities. No one has a higher or lower position in the Body of Christ based on ethnic or national origin. But that is exactly why the Cardinals would like to elect a non-Italian and non-European. They want the choice of Pope to be reflective of the universality of the Church.
“It was controversial, when the Cardinals elected Pope John Paul II, partly because he was non-Italian. The custom, for a long time, had been to elect an Italian Pope, because the Curia (the Cardinals and other staff who assist the Pope) are largely Italian, and Vatican City is located in Italy. There is a certain practicality to having a Pope who is Italian. But the increasing ease with which persons can travel and communicate around the world has minimized these considerations. So at the conclave of October 1978, the Cardinals chose a Polish Cardinal as Pope. Thereafter, the successful and popular Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, solidified this judgment, that the Pope need not be from Italy. It was much less surprising, then, when the next conclave chose a German Cardinal as Pope Benedict XVI.
“But now the Cardinals are said to be considering a non-European Pope. In past centuries, most Catholics in the world lived in Europe, and so most Cardinals were European. But as the Church has spread throughout the world, more Catholics are located outside of Europe than ever before. At the same time, travel and communication worldwide is easier than ever before. It is now tenable, even practical, for a Pope to be chosen from outside of Europe.
“How does the election of the first black U.S. President affect this consideration?”
[Excerpted from my book, Notes on the Apocalypse: 2012. More on the next Papal Conclave, on the Cardinals who are ‘papabile’ (considered to be in the running for Pope), and on the events in the Church and the world that surround and influence that Conclave is found in my book.]