The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Pope's Race Does Not Matter - Catholic Church

THE CATHOLIC church in Kenya will welcome anyone picked by the Church to replace Pope Benedict XV1 who announced that he will be retiring at the end of the month.

Father Vincent Wambugu said they were content with the reasons Pope Benedict gave for his resignation.

"He (Pope) is frail. That is human and we take it as a genuine reason," said Father Wambugu who is the Secretary General of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

Popes are expected to serve for life, with Benedict's predecessor John Paul II carrying on for years during chronic ill-health until his death in 2005.

Asked if he thought the church would pick an African for the post, Father Wambugu said the Catholic Church has guidelines on how the new Pope will be picked. "That is not important. The Vatican summons a conclave of cardinals to choose a new Pope," he said, "whether an African is picked or not, the Catholic Church will be comfortable with a Pope from any continent but we have to be careful so that it (race) does not become an issue."

He asked Africans not to be preoccupied by the thought that it was time for an African Pope. He said the new Pope can be picked from any part of the world.

Bishop Maurice Crowley of Kitale Diocese said there was no problem having a Pope from Africa.

"It will be most welcome but we will be content with what the Church will decide," said Crowley on phone from Kitale. "The Pope should be picked from any continent and whoever is picked, we will be happy as a diocese."

John Cardinal Njue said prospects of an African being appointed lie with the holy spirit but not on the hands of the conclave of cardinals who will be choosing the new Pope.

He said there was nothing extraordinary about the Pope's resignation having given genuine reasons. "What we need to do is to pray for Pope Benedict XVI," he said.

The Vatican will communicate when the elections will be conducted by 118 out of 209 cardinals, currently under age of 80 and who are allowed by the church doctrine to vote, Njue added. According to Wikipedia, there are more than half a billion Roman Catholics in Africa.

The Pope faced allegations that he was responsible for delaying Church action against a paedophile priest - the first time he has been accused so directly.

The allegations stem from a letter signed by Benedict XVI in 1985, when he was a senior Vatican official.

He leaves Vatican after serving for eight years.

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