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Would a black pope affect black Britons?

POTENTIAL POPES: Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson (left) and Cardinal Francis Arinze

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to debate the question…


No matter whether you are Black, White, Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or anything else in between, having a Black pope should affect you, but it would especially affect black Britons in a very positive way.

Two-thirds of today’s Catholics live in Latin America, Africa and Asia; yet there has been a tradition of only selecting European popes. Africa is home to the world’s fastest growing Catholic population and many believe that this should be recognised by the Vatican selecting a black pope. There were predictions that a black cardinal would be elected at the last conclave in 2005 but this, unfortunately, did not come to fruition. I think that it would be a travesty if, once again, a person of colour was passed over by the predominantly white Vatican hierarchy, as if there is a glass ceiling on what is supposed to be a divine body.

If a black pope were to be selected, it would send a strong message to young black Britons that there is no glass ceiling of race and that if they have a dream and a will to succeed then they can excel in any organisation. Before 2009, the thought of having a black US president seemed unimaginable. But I am happy to say that we are living in a time when we are able to benefit from the changes and tolerance in the world for which many people before us have fought.

It has been reported in the media that the selection of a black pope could be controversial in parts of Eastern Europe where racism remains a problem. But this is all the more reason why having a black pope would affect black Britons in a positive way. Having a black person in the highest ranks of the Catholic Church would hopefully give way to generations of more open minded individuals in Europe; helping to battle racism and negative stereotyping in some less than forward thinking countries.

To have a black spiritual leader would be an example of how far our world has progressed in the last century.



If a black pope is elected it will make no difference nor affect the black community in Britain today. There are many faiths and traditions in this country, but to find out if a black pope will make a difference you have to look at how many black Catholics there are.

Figures show us that across the whole population, there is a very small community of black Catholics. A large percentage of black Christians are Pentecostal. The national census states that there are 75 per cent of Catholics in the country who are white, with only 8.4 per cent of black Catholics following the faith. (2008 Census: Ethnic makeup of Catholic population in UK.)

I do not want to come across negative or be perceived as someone who doesn't embrace change within our society, but I am just not convinced that the Catholic Church, which has been around for thousands upon thousands of years, would be willing to accept someone who will perhaps break the tradition or be perceived as a threat to the Catholic community. It's no secret that there are still countries in Eastern Europe that are racist, stuck in their ways and are not willing to embrace newer traditions. 

Yes, having two front-runners in the race for papacy such as Cardinal Turkson and Cardinal Francis Arinze is great, but how does that really affect black Britons today? The issue itself does not greatly impact on the black community because it relates to Catholics. And if you are black but not religious then how does it affect you?   

We as a society also tend to focus the situation around race; we did it with Obama and his election in 2009, thanks to the media. We do not take into account whether the man of God could actually uphold his duties and be a great future leader in the Catholic Church.

If we are discussing politics however, and you ask me whether having a black Prime minister would affect black Britons then yes, it would affect us all!

The 'Head to Head' column is by the London 360 reporters. To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to WE ARE LONDON!

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