I am not a big fan of the geographical methods for selecting a Pope. Selecting a pope from [here] would mean this and send that message, but selecting a pope from [there] would that and send this message. I think there are much more important catholic (universal) criteria for selecting a pope. But that said, this is a topic that is out there so let us discuss it a bit.
Fr. Longenecker makes an interesting case for an African Pope.
Now it is time for a Pope from Africa. Here’s why:
The Catholic Church in the developing world is young, vital and growing. Philip Jenkins in The Next Christendom and John Allen in The Future Church have chronicled the growth and dynamism of the church in the developing world, but especially in Africa. In Africa the seminaries are full. The churches are overflowing. Religious houses can’t be built fast enough, the slowly building missionary work of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is finally bearing rich and abundant fruit.
Of course, all modern Popes ave been European and Europe is where we first saw division followed by decline. Selecting European Popes has done nothing to stem the outgoing tide. We are seeing the beginnings of the same paradigm occurring in Latin America. Protestants are making inroads in Latin America and I doubt very much that selecting a Latin American Pope would do much to change this. Selecting a Pope from these regions will do little to re-evangelize in my opinion. I think the problem lies elsewhere.
But for all this talk of geography and message sending, there is one location that I don’t see mentioned much. Leaving aside the need for re-evangeliztion for a moment, how about a Pope from somewhere that has yet to really see its first evangelization. How about selecting a Pope from someplace where it is dangerous or even illegal to be a Catholic. How about a Chinese Pope?
If you want to really send a message to the world, pick a Chinese Pope. They will never see it coming.