Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Waiting for the Next Pope

opinion

Osogbo — The resignation of the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI was shocking, not only to the 1.2billion Catholics, but to the nearly 7 billion people across the globe because it is very unusual for a serving pope to resign and under the Catholic Church's governing code, Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation, are that it be made freely and be properly published.

Resignation is extremely rare among successive Popes, that is why the 85years old German-born Pope made history as the first Pope in the last 598 years to step down since Gregory XII quit in 1415 because he "no longer has the strength to carry on".

Elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005 when he was 78, humanly speaking one can't expect Pope Benedict to be as vibrant as his predecessor who was 58 years when he was elected to the Papacy and spent 26 years as Bishop of Rome before he died in 2005.

At 85, I believe Pope Benedict have truly examined his conscience repeatedly before God and it is indeed that his strengths due to advance age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the petering ministry. Thank God for the grace of God in the life of outgoing pope who is still managing to move around with the help of his aids, there many people of his age or lesser who can't even come out of the house let alone leading millions of people.

In the light of this, I really commend the courage and truthfulness of Pope Benedict XVI for being truthful to himself, the church and to God.

Having said that, as the world awaits the emergence of new pope, the Vatican City must be more diligent and put sentiment apart in selecting new pope. As the Cardinals will be converging to elect the new Pope among the conclave of cardinals, they must look beyond race or colour but they must allow the process of selecting new pope to be fair so as to allow God to have His way because our God is not an author of confusion.

Jesus said unto Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome;"...and on this rock will I build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Mathew 16:18) (NKJV). Therefore whosoever emerges as the new pope either from Europe, America, African or Asia will succeed with the help of God.

It was when Pope John Paul II died in 2005 that the Africans were hoping that Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze then 72 arch-conservative and number four in the Vatican hierarchy who was widely seen as the wider world's best candidate would be the first African pope, but as God would have it was outgoing Papa that emerged.

It is also in the record that no African has led the Roman Catholic Church since the death of Gelasius I in 496 AD. Therefore it may be possible that the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI may be God's way of opening the door for a non-European pope to emerge especially now that the church is facing scandals in the Holy See, like numerous charges against paedophile priests or conflicts in the Curia after Benedict XVI gave the top post of secretary of state to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

I will also suggest the emergence of a young, vibrant and agile Pope. It will be recalled that Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) who was the second longest serving Pope after Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) became Pope in 1978 when he was 58 years and that was one of the factor that really help him to move up and down without hindrances for the 26 years he served as Bishop of Rome. I hereby suggest that a new Pope should be a cardinal in his 50s or early 60s so that both spiritual and physical strength will there for him to carry out the Petering ministry.

In his resignation note, Pope Benedict XVI who became the 265th pope and the oldest Pontiff elected since the late 18th century said; "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary......". Therefore the 118 cardinals who are eligible to vote in election of the Pope must learn from the word of wisdom of outgoing Pope and try and elect a strong and energetic Pope who can cope with the rigorous task of the office of Bishop of Rome because no one can be more catholic than the Pope.

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