In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation, bookmakers and international media alike are heralding the prospect of Rome's first black African pontiff. With the shock resignation this morning of Pope Benedict XVI, the international media has gone into overdrive in an attempt to predict the next spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Could the world finally see its first black pope?
The Church (with more than one billion followers worldwide and counting) has had three 'African' popes in its history - all from the North African provinces of the Roman Empire and none since the fifth century. However, the latest papal election could very realistically see the first black - indeed, first truly non-European - pope. In recent years, the Catholic leadership has become increasingly global in makeup, finally starting to represent Catholic demographics across the planet.
Catholicism is truly global, with the majority of the Catholic community living in the Americas today. Second place goes to Europe, and third to Africa. However, over the last decade the number of Europeans adhering to the Catholic faith has been in decline, while Catholicism in Africa is on the rise. In November last year, the Catholic Church made headlines when it created six new cardinals, none of whom were European.
When put into context, the gesture was hardly revelatory - Europe still accounts for 55% of all 210 cardinals - but it did go some way to diluting Europe's dominance in the College of Cardinals. But now, with Benedict XVI's upcoming resignation, the possibility has opened up that an African could take the top job. Although bookies' odds have been changing since the Pope's announcement this morning, there are currently three clear favourites, all with similar odds. Of the three, two are African and the other is Canadian. So who are the Africans that could soon have a direct hotline to God? What are their backgrounds, their main views, and what could the Church's future be with them at the helm? Ghana's guy: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson Next Pope?
A number of bookmakers (including Ladbrokes) have placed Turkson as odds-on favourite to be next pope.
A relatively youthful candidate at 64 years old, Turkson has been tipped as a possible successor to Benedict XVI for a number of years now. He has served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, charged with ensuring the acceptance of Catholic social teaching worldwide. He also chaired a synod of African bishops at the Vatican in 2010, and is proud of the Church's progress on his home continent.