Cardinal Francis Arinze: 5 Facts About the Potential First African Pope


The pope resigned, long live the pope. 

Following shocking revelations that Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of the month, speculation is already mounting around who will replace the short-lived current pope (I mean, he just joined Twitter last December, @Pontifex). And, though neither of my Roman Catholic grandmothers probably ever dreamed of having a black pope, two cardinals of African descent; Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Francis Arinze are rumored to be on the short list (thank you Barack Obama). Here are five facts about Arinze, the potential first African pope:  

1. CV: 

Born on November 1, 1932, Arinze is an Igbo Nigerian Cardinal who is also Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the current Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni (succeeding Pope Benedict XVI).  

2. Nigerian Conversion: 

Arinze was born in Eziowelle, Anambra State, Nigeria and converted from an African traditional religion at age 9 by Father Michael Tansi (who was beatified by John Paul II in 1998). 

3. The Bookmakers' Favorite:

Arinze of Nigeria is among the cardinals hotly tipped by bookmakers on Monday to take over from Pope Benedict XVI. William Hill bookmakers named 80-year-old Arinze as their favorite with odds of 2-1. Coral also tipped Arinze as the likeliest successor with odds of 7-4.

4. John Pope II:

Arinze was one of the principal advisors to Pope John Paul II, which is a disgrace considering this was one the popes that most strongly advocated against the use of condoms in Africa — which probably didn't help curbing the AIDS epidemic in that continent. 

5. Two Africans as Front Runners:

Arinze faces competition from another black cardinal, Peter Turkson, to become the first pope of African descent. Both are on the short list and British bookmakers favor both.