“In the eight years of Benedict’s papacy alone, the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 21 percent and the number of priests by 16 percent,” says Naunihal Singh, who specializes in African politics. “The election of Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson by the College of Cardinals, most of whom still come from Europe, would be a clear acknowledgment that the leadership of the Church has to reflect this shifting center of gravity.”
Singh says Turkson probably wouldn’t make significant doctrinal changes in the church, but his style would differ greatly from Benedict.
“Where Pope Benedict is scholarly, elderly and aloof, Turkson is younger and more plainspoken, although still a biblical scholar in his own right,” Singh says.
“The demographic argument in favor of a non-European pope is hard to ignore. The past of the Catholic Church is in Europe, and its future is in Africa and Asia.”
Benedict promised his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor in his final words to cardinals Thursday, a poignant and powerful farewell delivered hours before he becomes the first pope in 600 years to resign.
Benedict said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days as they discuss the issues facing the church, the qualities needed in a new pope and prepare to enter into the secret conclave to elect him.