The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Winds of change


OUR OPINION: Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to retire offers chance to reach out to new regions for next pope

Many around the world are still coming to grips with Pope Benedict XVI’s bombshell announcement on Monday that he plans to abdicate, effective Feb. 28. But the 85-year-old pope’s decision to become the first pontiff in almost 600 years to resign should not have been that startling. Indeed, the man many viewed as the “caretaker pope” has telegraphed his actions for years — in speeches, book interviews and even in a visit to Latin America.

In the book Light of the World Benedict indicated that resigning is the only honorable thing to do if a pope is unable to fulfill his responsibilities.

“If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,” he wrote.

Just last year, Benedict’s trip to Mexico and Cuba was affected greatly by health considerations. Schedulers passed up on visiting Mexico City because of the altitude, choosing instead to begin the tour in Leon. He brought along his cane — the first time he was seen with it in public — and his schedule was filled with many periods of rest.

His visit to Cuba was also light on public appearances, compared to his predecessor John Paul II’s busy agenda when he visited there in 1998. Many hoped Benedict’s visit would usher in a “springtime of faith,” as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski put it. It’s unclear whether the trip had a lasting positive impact, although some would point out that Raúl Castro abolished the dreaded exit permits — they were required of all Cubans in order to leave the island — within a year of Benedict’s visit.

What’s clear now is that Benedict’s decision to resign presents an historic opportunity for the Catholic Church to cast a wide net when the princes of the church gather to select his successor.

As it has for centuries, Europe is favored to produce the next pope. But there are strong candidates from Africa and Latin America who would serve ably if given the nod. They hail from Nigeria and Ghana to Honduras, Argentina and Brazil.

The two most mentioned African cardinals, either of which could become the first black pope, are:

• Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace;

• Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, Benedict’s successor as Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni.

Latin American cardinals include:

• Joao Braz de Aviz of Brazil, head of the Vatican department of religious congregations;

• Odilo Scherer of Brazil, archbishop of the large diocese of Sao Paulo;

• Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, head of the Vatican department of Eastern Churches;

• Oscar Maradiaga from Honduras, archbishop of Tegucigalpa;

• Norberto Rivera Carrera, primate archbishop of Mexico.

These papabili deserve strong consideration, especially because 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are in Latin America and about 15 percent in Africa. Europe, by contrast, accounts for about a third of the world’s Catholics.

In choosing to step aside as his health deteriorated, Benedict walked a path that had not been followed in 600 years. Maybe it’s also time for the church to step out of its comfort zone. Catholics will be watching closely next month to see whether the white smoke signaling the election of a new pope is carried aloft by the winds of change.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    From tragedy to farce

    OUR OPINION: Latest Guantánamo disclosures further discredit the justice process

  • Worth a thousand words

    The Miami Herald Editorial Board shares the viewpoints of cartoonists from across the country in this Saturday feature called “Worth a Thousand Words.”

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Legislative lunacy

    OUR OPINION: Lawmakers shouldn’t cut funds for front lines of mental healthcare

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category