Despite Barack Obama’s messianic-like reception, he’s not the black pope I’m talking about. I don’t actually know who that black pontiff might be. I know that when Pope John Paul II died, there were a few African cardinals being discussed as front-runners for carrying on for St. Peter.
But as Gary Stern points out, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory believes Obama making history as the first black man elected president of the United States has set the stage for the College of Cardinals to someday elect a black pope.
More about what Gregory told the Italian paper La Stampa from the Times of London:
Archbishop Gregory said that the next time cardinals gathered to elect a Pope they could “in their wisdom” choose an African pontiff. “My own election as head of the US Bishops Conference was an important signal. In 2001 the American bishops elected someone they respected regardless of his race, and the same thing could happen with the election of a Pope.”
I’m not sure the two have any connection. Despite the United States’ global power, the Vatican exists on an island whose only outside influence is, in theory, God. Of course, there is no reason this would preclude a black pope; I just don’t think Obama’s election means anything to the College of Cardinals. On the other hand ... maybe it does.