Pope Benedict XVI gave up being pope for Lent.
OK, maybe not, but when news broke that the pope would be retiring, it led everyone who heard the news to ask, “wait, popes can do that?” I thought it was a “for the rest of your life” type of job.
Well, it isn’t. The pope announced that he would be stepping down from the pontificate at the end of this month. This is the first time the Vatican will search for a new pope since April of 2005. It’s also the first time a pope has stepped down since Gregory XII in 1415, so it’s been a while.
Even though people close to the pope said that he talked about stepping down for a long time now, it doesn’t make the news less shocking or easier to get used to. I can talk about eating healthy and saving money all the time, but if I actually did it, nobody would believe it.
The Cardinals will gather on March 1, 2013, to begin to choose a new pope. Two of the leading candidates are Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, both white. In fact, there has never been a non-European or non-white pope.
According to the Washington Post, Latin America is home to the world’s largest Roman Catholic community, with 40 percent of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, but nobody from there has been pope. In Mexico alone, 84 percent of the population consider themselves Catholics.
There’s more than enough qualified candidates. So, the next pope should be from Mexico or Latin America.
When the 118 Cardinals get together and vote for a new pope, hopefully they will change a Vatican tradition that’s whiter than an audience at a Dave Matthews Band concert. It’s not like a Mexican pope would replace the miter with a sombrero, or the robe with a poncho.
Plus, the food at the Vatican would be so good. I don’t know what they serve now, but I’m sure it’s not chimichangas.
The odds are stacked, however, as only 19 of those 118 Cardinals are from Latin America. Cardinal Koch, one of Benedict’s aides, has talked about an African or Latin American pope being very possible. The fact that the Cardinal has even talked about this progress adds to the possibility that we may see a pope that looks a little different than what we are currently used to.