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African popes

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Cardinals who could become the next pope include:  (Top row from left) Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga, Argentine Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Brazilian Joao Braz de Aviz, Philippines' Luis Antonio Tagle, and Nigerian Peter Turkson. (Bottom row from left ): Austrian Cristoph Schonborn, Hungarian Peter Erdoe, Italian Angelo Scola, Canadian Marc Ouellet, Nigerian Francis Arinze, Nigerian John Onaiyekan, and USA's Timothy Dolan.        AFP | Getty Images

Papabili, or the cardinals who would be pope: (Top row from left) Brazilian Claudio Hummes, Honduran Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga, Argentine Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mexican Norberto Rivera Carrera, Brazilian Joao Braz de Aviz, Philippines’ Luis Antonio Tagle, and Nigerian Peter Turkson. (Bottom row from left ): Austrian Cristoph Schonborn, Hungarian Peter Erdoe, Italian Angelo Scola, Canadian Marc Ouellet, Nigerian Francis Arinze, Nigerian John Onaiyekan, and New York’s Timothy Dolan. AFP | Getty Images

Seemingly within minutes of the increasingly frail Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation, Aussie, Irish and British bookies started taking bets on who would be his successor.

“The three favorites include two Africans: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria,” John Campbell, who tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa, posted on his Council on Foreign Relations blog.

Writers for CNN and grio.com, a website under the NBC News umbrella that focuses on the black community, are making the case for a pope from Africa, home to 15 percent of the world’s Catholics.

“Europe today is going through a period of cultural tiredness, exhaustion, which is reflected in the way Christianity is lived,” thegrio quoted Portuguese Bishop Antonio Marto as saying. “You don’t see that in Africa or Latin America where there is a freshness, an enthusiasm about living the faith.”

“Religious vocations are booming in Africa,” Stan Chu Ilo, a religion professor at Toronto University, wrote on CNN.

Turkson, the head of the Vatican’s justice and peace office who at a youthful 64 could lead the church for decades, is emerging as a strong favorite. But a fellow Ghanaian is dismayed by the hype.  A GhanaWeb blogger pointed out that Turkson would not be the first African pope: St. Victor I (AD 189-198) was the first Latin writer of the church and promoted  Sunday as the proper day for Easter; St. Miltiades was a comtemporary of the Emperor Constantine; St. Gelasius, who died in 496, defended the divine authority of the papacy in elegant prose.

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