Dreaming of an African Pope

Gather round children and hear “[all] Africans seem naturally networked to religion.” Bow thy heads in shame yea northern heathens for the “Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination, is part of the fabric of all African societies.” Heaven forbid you should get on your high horse and talk of gross generalizations swathed in the tropes of noble savagery and whatnot, for the Lord hath spoken and he sayeth unto thee: “Over the decades that I have traveled in Africa I have met only four African atheists”; that “[in Africa] God is invoked on every occasion, private or public;” and, in a critical new insight, that “[the cause of] wars … in Africa… is usually a dispute over land rights involving two communities that happen to be of different faiths.” 

Facts I tell you! You can keep your wretched first world godlessness and evil; just give us your Pope.

In a compelling blog post to African Arguments (a blog, by the way, that is about arguments about Africa, generally not by Africans–to dispense with any ambiguity), Richard Dowden, director of that anachronism of Africa watchers ‘The Royal African Society’ (royal as in Elizabeth II, not Goodwill Zwelethini), gets it spot on: “the next Pope should come from Africa.”

Indeed, as Dowden’s analysis suggests “[an African Pope] could restore the Church’s universal vision by moving out of the Vatican and bequeath its magnificent — but almost exclusively European Renaissance — treasures to the world.” Without a hint of incoherence, Dowden seals the deal with “He could then rebase the spiritual, emotional and geographical centre of the Church somewhere closer to a crossroads of modern humanity, a region where Judaism, Christianity and Islam began, a place where religion is most intensely felt, where the destiny of humanity itself may be forged: Jerusalem.”



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