Were we the only ones expecting someone black or brown to walk out last week after white smoke went up over the Vatican?
Sure, the election of Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a big leap for the Catholic Church. For hundreds of years, the Church has only looked to Europe for popes.
Some would argue that the College of Cardinals did not much sway from that tradition since Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is essentially Italian (his father immigrated to Argentina, and his mother is the daughter of Italian immigrants), but we see his ascension as a step in the right direction, a sign that the Church is accepting that Catholicism is no longer king in Europe. South America, Africa and Asia are becoming the faith’s lifelines. On these continents, new and young believers are joining the Church every day.
Before last week’s election of Pope Francis, experts predicted that there were seven top contenders for the job. (Bergoglio was not among them, so, in hindsight, the list has to be viewed with some skepticism.) Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who fights for human rights as the head of the Vatican’s peace and justice department, and Luis Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, Phillippines, were among the top contenders. The election of either of them would have truly broke the mold, doubly so in the case of Tagle, who is just 55.
A pope of color is inevitable as the landscape of the Church continues to change. In the meantime, we wish Pope Francis godspeed as he embarks on this new journey.