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Disclaimer: This article is not an attempt to speak ill of the church or mar its image and shouldn’t be treated as such. It is strictly an “imperfect” observation and opinion of the writer.
Some topic seems to be so sacred that nobody wants to talk about or discuss it even when some have given it serious thought. We stopped existing in the medieval times a long time ago and nobody would cut off your head or hang you on a tree for speaking your mind even if it is not in favour of the church. Last time I checked, the era of the Spanish inquisition is no more. I refuse to be one of those that would put religion before God. The subject of this article is with reference to the Roman Catholic Church.
Let me state emphatically that I was born and bred a catholic before those thoroughbred-soldiers-of-Christ set of Catholics would start hurling stones/arrows of criticism at me. Silence or shying away from issues has never been proven to be a solution to problems. And although this may not be a problem to millions of Catholics around the world, it is to me.
When you take a look at all the popes in the Catholic Church from Saint Peter to Pope Francis, there is no single black man amongst the 266 men that have become pope till date and it leaves one wondering if black men don’t serve God too or if they are not good enough to be popes. I may be ignorant of the procedures or criteria for selecting a pope but I believe that all things being equal a black man should have been made pope at one time or the other since the church came into existence, if it is to be fair. There have been black cardinals if I am not mistaken and I have been privileged to have the understanding that two of them presently are Nigerians. It was said that one was among the preferatti /papabile to succeed Pope John Paul II and I guess that is the only level that a man of colour would attain in trying to become pope.
I was talking to an acquaintance who happens to be a writer about this subject and he mentioned that Papacy could be coming to the blacks soon since it has moved from Europe where it was situated to a third world country as seen in the current Pope emerging from Argentina. His tone could be perceived as saying: All we have to do as coloured people is hope that it would come down to us someday. Truth is: As long as internal politics are at play in the church, I doubt if we would be seeing a black pope soon. Some people would say, “why not serve God and forget about who becomes pope or not?” And my reply would be that I have always been an advocate of justice and equality and would not shy away from asking necessary questions. The only proof to ascertain equality as humans is by making a position of power open or available to qualified persons no matter their race or colour. This was at play when a black man became the president of the USA for the first time.
Another area where I think racial profiling could be found in the church is in canonization or the art of making someone a Saint. You can count the number of black men that are Saints (in the church’s standards) but when it comes to those on the other side of the divide, the number is overwhelming. Growing up in a catholic family, I attended the block rosary crusade which was almost mandatory for young Catholics and in several of our meetings, we read the Lives of The Saints. Several saints were mentioned in the book and their life and works chronicled. If memory permits, the only black saint I could recall coming across is Charles Lwanga and his companions from Uganda. To be on the safe side, I tried searching for black saints on Google and the only result of note took me the site of a catholic diocese where eight saints were mentioned, just eight. Although, I may be ignorant again of the criteria for someone attaining Sainthood but I know that if the church is being fair, there should be more black saints in the church. The late Iwene Tansi has been called “Blessed” ever since I learnt how to read and Late Pope John Paul II who died in 2005 was beautified last year. I don’t know what the church’s reasons are for not Canonizing Fr. Tansi but I would state that apart from whatever reasons there are, his skin colour and the part of the world where he is from could not be far away from it.
I may not have read the Canon Law of The Church from cover to cover but that should not stop me from saying what I believe is obvious and should be looked into. The Roman Catholic Church may not appear to be liberal and I am not suggesting that it should be but some things have to be readdressed and of course with divine guidance. Conservatism have worked for the church over the years but little changes like equality, I believe would not collapse the structure of the body of Christ.
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