Turkson wouldn't be first African pope

Yesterday morning a Lutheran friend sent me an email joking that he was "off Team Turkson" on account of Turkson campaigning for the job of pope. That would be Ghana's Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson. Now, I realize just how unseemly it is for a churchman to campaign for any job but this may be an unfair reading of an interview Turkson gave in the Telegraph. Some media outlet called The Week pretty much just recycled someone else's work into their story headlined "Peter Turkson not shy about his wish to become first black Pope."

CARDINAL Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate who is hotly-tipped to become the next Pope, has given a candid interview about the "life-changing" responsibility of leading the Catholic Church.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the 64-year-old bookies' favourite openly admitted he has pondered the possibility of becoming the first black Pope and what it would mean for himself and his church. He concedes it "would signal a lot of [personal] change. I have been an archbishop, which involved a certain amount of leadership, and now having to do this on a world level, the dimensions expand almost infinitely."

Bookmaker William Hill was today offering odds of 7/2 on Turkson becoming Pope, making him the joint favourite with Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Despite his surprising candour on the subject of succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, Turkson was "quick" to take a conservative line on controversial issues such as gay marriage and other "alternative lifestyles", the Telegraph says. He said the Catholic Church needed to find ways to "evangelise" or convert those who had embraced "alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues".

The article then quotes Queerty -- noted experts on all things papal.

Anyway, where, oh where, to begin.

First off would be my question as to why The Week contends Turkson would be the first black pope.

I know of at least three African popes and I don't believe I've heard anything about their skin color. I have heard that Victor I -- the first African pope -- was the first black pope but I don't think that's been proven. Apparently skin color is a more modern obsession. As for Miltiades and Gelasius I -- and any other African popes -- no reports on their skin color.

Does anyone have a good answer on this?

I'm seeing this "first black pope" thing all over the place. I'm not sure the history can confirm such a claim regarding Turkson.

But it's that last paragraph that is so bizarre.

I think I could write a book on the use and misuse of the word "despite" in journalism. Why in the world would surprising candor be in conflict with being "quick" to uphold Catholic teaching -- I'm sorry, let me translate that into mainstream-media-speak -- to "take a conservative line on controversial issues" that the media are obsessed with? Sigh.

I also have to share something I'd like to share that I came across elsewhere -- a journalist's guide to the papal election:

  • The College of Cardinals is not responsible for fielding a winning baseball team in the city of St. Louis.
  • Yes, this is an election. No, there are no primaries. Yes, there are debates. No, you may not cover them. And no, Catholics in New Hampshire do not vote first.
  • Smoke signals at the end of each vote are not a personal affront to  Native Americans.
  • Neither Cardinal Francis Arinze or Cardinal Peter Turkson may be referred to as "African American." They are not Americans. And the term "African" does not mean the color of their skin. Charlize Theron is African, too.
  • Yes, the next Pope will be a man and a Catholic.

As for the last one -- not if the media can help it!

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