As symbolically powerful as it would be to have a non-European lead the Catholic Church, Benedict's successor will promote the faith's traditional teachings on sex.
Since Pope Benedict XVI did what had previously been unthinkable and almost unprecedented on February 11—submitting his resignation with what amounted to little more than a two-week notice—there has been speculation that the Catholic Church could see a non-European pope. "It's highly possible," New York City's Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told the New York Times last week.
Much of the initial focus was on Latin America because the region "represents 42 percent of the world's 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church," as Reuters reported on the day of Benedict's announcement. "Two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. The upshot of their remarks is that the next pope could well be from Latin America."
But in the two weeks since then, much of the successor buzz—and the bookie's odds, if you place any value on handicapping the cardinals at the papal conclave—has focused on Africa. Two men in particular: Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson and Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze. Turkson, who was appointed by Benedict in 2009 to lead the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has reportedly emerged as one of the leading choices. The National Catholic Reporter does a fairly good job explaining the frenetic media narrative when it profiled Turkson last week: "Nothing's sexier from a media point of view than the idea of a 'black pope.' The notion of what's traditionally seen as the planet's ultimate First World institution being led by a black man from the southern hemisphere has an undeniable magic."