Rebel Theologian Says Obama Paves Way for Black Pontiff

Joshua Goodman – Bloomberg, 02/19/2013

Catholic cardinals impressed by Barack Obama’s rise to power may be encouraged to elect the first black pope, according to a Brazilian theologian once silenced by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope.

Leonardo Boff said the chances of an African such as Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana becoming the next pontiff are slim after Pope Benedict XVI named most of the 117 cardinals who will choose his successor in a conclave next month. Still, Obama’s election as U.S. president may open up the Vatican’s old guard to change, easing opposition to contraception and women priests, he said.

“Without a doubt Obama’s presence is going to be felt among the cardinals,” Boff, a former Franciscan friar who studied with Ratzinger at the University of Munich in the 1960s, said in a phone interview. “We already have a black president, so why not a black religious president?”

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A Laboratory for Revitalizing Catholicism

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 02/14/2013

RIO DE JANEIRO — At one new megachurch in São Paulo, a Roman Catholic priest who was a personal trainer before joining the clergy energetically belts out songs, rock-star style, before 25,000 worshipers. Other Brazilian priests are donning cowboy hats and crooning country tunes at Mass or writing best-selling advice tomes emblazoned with heartthrob photographs on the cover.

If there is any place that captures the challenges facing Catholicism around the world it is Brazil, the country with the largest number of Catholics and a laboratory of sorts for the church’s strategies for luring followers back into the fold.

Reflecting the shifting religious landscape that Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will contend with, Brazil rivals the United States as the nation with the most Pentecostals, as a Catholic monolith gives way amid a surge in evangelical Protestant churches.

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Brazil Papal Contender: Place of Birth Irrelevant

Bradley Brooks – ABC News, 02/14/2013

The archbishop of one of the world’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese and a man thought to be a leading Latin American contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that neither geographic origin nor age should matter much in determining the next pontiff.

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, shrugged off questions about whether this might be the moment for a Latin American pope, and whether he might be the man to take the role.

“It would be very pretentious for a cardinal to say, ‘I am prepared,'” Scherer said. “No one is going to say ‘I am a candidate.'”

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