Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Afrikan Popes of Roman Catholic Church

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
April 10, 2005

Now that Pope John Paul 11 has died after a 26-year tenure as Pope of Rome, there has been both correct speculation mixed with incorrect and ahistorical information bandied about in regard to the Afrikan Papal presence in early Roman Catholic Church history.

Indeed, South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is totally incorrect and ahistorical to suggest that "the cardinals when they meet will follow the first non-Italian Pope by electing the first African Pope." ( Guardian, 4 April 2005).

The fact of the matter is that historiography correctly proves that the early Popes of the Roman Catholic Church were of Afrikan descent. Such history is already documented.

For example, Victor 1, an Afrikan, was Pope of Rome from 189-199 A.D. That Easter Day is always celebrated on a Sunday and that the liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church is Latin is due to the decision of this Afrikan Pope Victor 1, the 14th in line after St. Peter.

Miltiades, an Afrikan, was Pope of Rome from 311-314 A.D., the 32nd after St. Peter. Although Miltiades ruled the Roman Catholic Church for only three years, his pontificate witnessed one of history's turning points, namely, the emergence of Emperor Constantine and an end of the era of persecution.

The 49th Pope after St. Peter was the Afrikan Gelasius 1, Pope of Rome from 492-496 A.D. He was born in Rome of Afrikan parents. Gelasius 1 was full of vigor, intelligence and energy. He composed several hymns, prefaces and arranged a standard Mass-book.

"For their devoted, faithful service and their deeds and piety, the Church of Rome owes much to these three Afrikan Pontiffs -- St. Victor 1, St. Miltiades and St. Gelasius 1."

So if the favourite Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze is chosen/selected to succeed Pope John Paul 11 as Pope of Rome, then he will only be following in the Roman Papal tradition of his three Afrikan predecessors. He will certainly not be the first non-Italian-Afrikan Pope of Rome in modern times.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu ia a part-time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College.

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