Osei-Bonsu: ′The church is not just European′ | Africa | DW | 14.03.2013
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Osei-Bonsu: 'The church is not just European'

The Roman Catholic Church has its first non-European pope in 1,300 years. In Africa, there were hopes that the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI would usher in an African pope.

The Catholic world is celebrating the election of the new pope. Many African Catholics had hoped that this time the pontiff would come from their continent. Although these hopes were dashed, there have been many positive reactions from Africa. DW has been speaking to Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, President of the Ghanaian Catholic Bishops' Conference.

DW: How disappointed are you that the Ghanaian cardinal Peter Turkson wasn’t elected pope?

Joseph Osei-Bonsu: As a Ghanaian, I would have been happy that we have a Ghanaian as pope. But in a way I recognize that the church is universal and that there are cardinals from other countries and when they meet they decide on the person that they choose. And so if they think at this moment Pope Francis is the one who can lead the church, I would not have a problem with that, and so what I can do is cooperate with him so that his work will go well.

How significant is it for African Catholics that the new pope is the first in 1,300 years not to be a European?

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, of Ghana, blesses faithful at the end of a mass at St. Liborius' parish church in Rome, Sunday, March 10, 2013. Cardinals from around the world gather this week in a conclave to elect a new pope following the stunning resignation of Benedict XVI. In the secretive world of the Vatican, there is no way to know who is in the running, and history has yielded plenty of surprises. Yet several names have come up time repeatedly as strong contenders for the job. Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, is among those considered to have a credible shot at the papacy. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Ghanaians have hoped Cardinal Peter Turkson would be elected pope

I think it is very good for the church and the Third World that the church is not European and it should not be a European church. So we are happy that somebody from South America has been chosen, has been elected pope, and we know that in due course we will get an African pope also.

What do you see as the main challenges facing Catholics in Africa and what could Pope Francis do to help resolve them?

In the area of evangelization, there are big problems. There are many places where people have the faith but then they lack infrastructure, they lack churches and places where they can worship. That is a major challenge to us. There are also issues of poverty and the church tries to help in place of the government. There are areas where the church makes its presence known where government officials do not go. So these are some of the issues in the church evangelization, and then lack of basic amenities, these should be addressed by the government, but the government is not always able to do it and so the church tries to come in.

Are you aware of any plans to invite the pope to Africa?

I think it is too early to say. We tried to invite Pope Benedict when Ghana was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the nation. But it wasn't possible, I guess he gets many invitations. So we will allow the new pope to settle down and we will try to get him to come to Ghana and to other parts of Africa.  

Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu is the President of the Ghanaian Catholic Bishops' Conference.

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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