First Black Pope?

The Washington Times has an article entitled “Francis Arinize: First Black Pope?”

If Cardinal Francis Arinze were to be elected the first black pope, this would simply reflect a Christian reality, Roman Catholic or otherwise. Africa has become Christianity’s powerhouse. It is on that continent that the body of Christ grows most robustly, while it ails in the secularized Northern Hemisphere.

Washington Times: Francis Arinize: First Black Pope?

While I agree that Arinze is a great candidate, and has been my pick for about 7 or 8 years, he wouldn’t be the first African Pope. He would be the fourth. Although there are no official portraits of the first three African Popes, according to the National Black Catholic Congress, “there are drawings and references in the Catholic Encyclopedia as to their being of African background” (meaning that they were black).

Of course, there hasn’t been a black Pope for 1500 years, so I guess we’re due.


  1. Mike says

    That’s not necessarily true that if they’re from Africa they were black. The inhabitants of South Africa are actually white. Even if he wouldn’t be the first African Pope, he still might be the first black Pope.

    • Vicenti Wright says

      The are whites are in African right now because of the european invasion led by alexander the thief. Whites are NOT indigenous to africa. If you do your research you will see that the white man did not appear in history until 6,000 years ago. At that time aincient Nubia was in its 18th dynasty

  2. says

    There were three African Popes who came from the region of North Africa. Although there are no authentic portraits of these popes, there are drawings and references in the Catholic Encyclopedia as to their being of African background.

    That they are from Africa is known, the drawings and references show that they were black. e.g. here. It’s certainly open for dispute… hard to be certain of anything that old. What is known is that racial attitudes in Europe had not yet turned against blacks at that time. There were also several black Roman Emperors, including Septimus Severus who ruled at the same time that Victor I (also of African descent) was Pope.

  3. Will Hadigan says

    I dont care if a pope is black or white or any other colour…we are talking of spiritual things in any Pope. I think it is time for a black Pope if he is the choice of the Cardinals and the Holy Spirit. I have no problem with that at all.

  4. says

    Many people want a Pope from the third-world not because of skin color per se, but because the third-world is where the Catholic Church is growing most quickly. Regardless of where he is from, the new Pope will need to nurture that growth.

  5. john abu says

    Well, they did not teach it in school but there were black pope from Africa. Of course the first one being Peter. Yeah, Peter was black and not white.(So is Moses and Jesus) The other Black Popes according to the are :

    14- St. Victor (189-199)
    Born in Africa, he was elected in 189 and died in 199, a martyr. He was the fourteenth pope. He decreed that, in Baptism, any kind of water could be used in an emergency. Memorable was his struggle against the bishops of Asia and Africa so that Easter should be celebrated according to the Roman rite and not according to the Jewish one.

    32 – St. Miltiades (311-314)
    Born in Africa in 311. During his pontificate the emperor Constantine, after the vision “in hoc signo vinces”, issued his decree of tolerance for the Christian Faith. Blessed bread dates from this time. He constructed the original Basilica of St. John Lateran. the Basilica has been rebuilt twice. The present church was finished in 1650.

    49 – St. Gelasius I (492-496)
    Born in Rome of African decent. He instituted the Code for the uniform ceremonies and rites. Because of his charity he was called the “Father of the Poor”. He maintained the supremacy of the church over the kings. He inserted the “Kyrie Eleison” (Greek for “Lord have mercy”) into the Mass.

  6. abe says

    Check this Article from the The Louisiana Weekly

    History’s best kept secret: Catholics have had 3 black Popes
    November 3, 2003 — The Louisiana Weekly

    The biblical scripture that says there is nothing new under the sun may have never been more true than it is with regard to reports that suggest Pope John Paul II’s successor may be a black African pope. History confirms that the Roman Catholic Church had three black African popes in the first 500 years since the death of Jesus Christ.
    News of Pope John Paul II’s deteriorating health and the possibility of a Nigerian, Cardinal Francis Arinze, being tapped to succeed him have prompted discussion of the Vatican’s previous black popes.
    Without a doubt, should Cardinal Arinze find himself promoted to the Roman Catholic Church’s highest seat, it might surprise some Catholics and non-Catholics to discover that he is the fourth black man to take over the helm at the Vatican.
    The three previous black African popes were Victor I (A.D. 186-197), Miltiades (A.D. 311-314) and St. Gelasius (A.D. 492-496), all of whom were saints who left their indelible marks on the Roman Catholic Church.
    The mainstream media are apparently unaware of the Catholic Church’s “colorful” past.
    An article dated April 16, 2001 in Newsweek magazine, for example, titled “The Changing Face of the Church” pondered the ramifications of Cardinal Francis Arinze becoming the first black pope.
    At least one biblical scholar is offended by that kind of ignorance and journalistic ineptitude.
    The Rev. Barbara Reynolds, a minister and former USA Today columnist who teaches biblical studies at the Calvary Bible Institute in the nation’s capitol, told recently that much of the significant history of blacks in religious history remains shrouded in secrecy. “I teach the black presence in the bible, and it’s almost like a secret code that hasn’t been broken,” she said.
    As an example of that reality, Reynolds offered the case of Victor I, the 15th pope and the reason Easter Day is celebrated universally on Sunday.
    An African native, Victor I served during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus, also a black African and one of several African emperors that led the Roman Empire.
    ‘It’s important to recognize that while there were three black popes in the early days from Africa, it was during a time when we didn’t have racial prejudice – there was no concept of race in the modern sense,” biblical scholar Cain Hope Felder of Howard University’s School of Divinity told recently.
    Felder, who holds degrees from Columbia University, Oxford University, Union Theological Seminary and Howard University, added that historic “black popes” and the fact that many people are startled by the news that Cardinal Francis Arinze could succeed Pope John Paul II offer a glimpse of how modern racial prejudice has marginalized the influence of blacks in world history. “This was at a time when race didn’t matter,” he said emphatically.
    “But now the prospect of selecting an African pope is seen as so dramatic and historic and even frightening to some – it just shows how unfortunate and deep the race factor has been in dividing people and distorting the gospel message,” he added.
    Miltiades, the 32nd pope, is remembered as the Vatican leader who led the church to final victory over the roman Empire. Though he ruled the church for a mere three years, Miltiades oversaw one of history’s most dramatic turning points – the coming of Roman Emperor Constantine and his conversion to Christianity in A.D. 313. Miltiades is credited with gaining approval from Emperor Constantine that all Christians would be free to worship without fear of reprisal or persecution.
    Gelasius I, the 49th pope, was born in Rome of African parents, assuming leadership of the Vatican in A.D. 492. “Intelligent and energetic, Gelasius I knew what steps he should take to establish a secure future for the church,” Edward Scobie, author of African Presence in Early Europe, wrote of the third African pope.
    Scobie, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and a leading expert on the presence of Africans in early Western Europe until his death in 1996, credited Gelasius I by writing that the black pope “saved Rome from famine and was emphatic on the duty of bishops to devote a quarter of their revenue to charity, stressing that ‘Nothing is more becoming to the priestly office than the protection of the poor and the weak.’ It is little wonder that he died empty-handed as a result of his lavish charity. He used to call his temporal goods: ‘The patrimony of the poor.'”
    The Rev. Barbara Reynolds told that black presence in religious history isn’t just important for people of color. “It’s for white people to know the truth also,” she said. “The bible says, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’ It’s not supposed to be one set of lies for white people and one set of truth for black people.”
    Cain Hope Felder agreed, adding that the church needs to make embracing diversity a priority if it hopes to survive and bring the truth to the masses. “We have allowed race to matter too much,” he said. “And if the church is going to have a future, it’s going to have to come up with a mandate for diversity and seeing beyond color.”

  7. says

    The super-mediatised pontiff
    I’m pretty convinced that the internet will have no major role in influencing the decision over the choice of the next Pope, even if John Paul II was the first “super mediatised” pontiff. Nevertheless, I can’t help but bring you a link to

  8. Maduabuch Kalu says

    It is quite true that there some black popes in the past, however, not many are aware of such rich historic past of Africa in the Church. The Church should do more to educate catholics about the truth concerning the church more especially here in Africa as many seem not believe that there was a time in the life of the church when African were at the helm of affairs in the church.
    Moreover, I wish that Francis Cardinal Arinze would be the one to succeed the late Pope John Paul the II.

  9. John McGrath says

    I love the revisionist history (or ignorance of history) presented here by some. There have been no black popes in antiquity. If an African is elected pope (a South American would be much more likeyly given church demographics) he would be the first black pope. since the church is universal, the racial background of the pope should be of veryl ittle import anyway.
    The popes mentioned as being ‘black’ were from the Roman province of Africa which then only consisted of what we today call Tunisia. The inhabitants of Tunisia then, as well as now are not black. Today they are Arab and Berber. In ancient times they were Punic and Roman colonists. Punic were Semitic Phoenician colonists whose chief city, Carthage, fought three famous wars agianst the Romans and lost. Emperor Septimus Severus was not ‘black’ either. But he was of Punic background, though, apparently latin was his native language.

  10. Alston Benjamin says

    John Mc Grath

    I have to say that you are as guilty of doing the same thing that you accuse these people of. The fact is that this region was always inhabited by people and not just those you listed. You are also using language to identify race when any wise person would never do that. The fact is there were Arabic speaking and Berber speaking people who were black. Further, the Phoenicians were by all accounts not of one race but rather they were a conglomeration of peoples with common interests and language which ultimately became known as Punic. At the time of the Roman Empire they had among them the ancestors of Lebanese, Maltese and Somalian people. I cannot say whether the Popes were black or not without further investigation but the fact is that there were black persons in that region of northern Africa at that time and it is not incredible to think that a black person could have become Pope. You have to remember that one thing the Romans valued above everything was the ability to lead.

    There were several Black gladiators who could according to Roman Law rise to become Soldiers and through this possibly Praetor. From there to Emperor was easy since by the Third Century the Army began choosing the Emperors.

  11. john says

    I’m pretty convinced that the internet will have no major role in influencing the decision over the choice of the next Pope, even if John Paul II was the first “super mediatised” pontiff. Nevertheless, I can’t help but bring you a link to

  12. Alston Benjamin says

    The first thing I have to say is that it does not really matter who is Pope as long as he does not compromise the value of that religion. I have no personal stake in who becomes Pope and unlike you I do not care much about whether the person is black, whether there are people who were black but what I care about is the fact that persons desecrate the history of an individual for their own ends and destroy the value of thought in so doing. Think about it, would the World be so different if revisionists are correct? Would the value of what we have learned be diminished?

    I remember that I was once taught that Christopher Columbus discovered my homeland and Amerigo Vespucci the USA but that when they arrived there they met with savages. Now it is more correct to say it was revisited. You have to remember that history is by all accounts or was a story told by the victors of a war about their elite and very little else. To date it still is only the wars are far more subtle than they used to be and the victories more far reaching than the mere death of a person but the death of peoples identity.

    The interesting thing is that most of what society is slowly realising that what it needs was considered natural for those those lives were interrupted by the Europeans. The systematic destruction of anything that was considered to not be culture has meant that we have to relearn what was done, but now from scratch.

    In Africa, archeology has unearthed evidence of Mathematics that predates the Greeks and Romans including trigonometry and Astronomy. what can be said about this. The fact is that we have evidence that it was not Greeks or Romans or Europeans but Africans who were responsible for a lot of the knowledge previously ascribed to them. Wrongs can be righted and all those false scientists should be relegated to the back pages of history like Christopher Columbus has been.

  13. Richard M. Popielarz says

    I am a Polish-American and would like to share with you a 19th century Polish prophecy that has, generally, been handed down over the years by word of mouth. A poem entitled “The Slavic Pope,” written by the second greatest Polish bard, Juliusz Slowacki, who wrote it as one of his last works in 1849, the year he died of tuberculosis, accurately prophesied that there would be a Slavic Pope (Poles, of course, are Slavs) and extremely accurately described his pontificate, ie. “he will sweep clean the Church vestibule…, defeat evil…, unite a hundred nations… before his coffin here.” The poem, of course never prophesies when this pope is to come but does say that it will occur during the time of great troubles (one of the greatest of the last century was the Cold War). After Slowacki died, a prophecy began circulating in partitioned Poland (the country did not exist on the map of Europe from 1795 until 1918) that the Slavic pope will be Polish and that, following his long pontificate, there would be the last Pope before the Anti-Christ. This last Pope was prophesied to come from Africa. It was, also prophesied that his pontificate would be comparatively short and that the End of Days would begin before the coming of Christ. This is why many Poles were so shocked on October 16, 1978 with the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla whose surname, incidentally, is not typically Polish (not ending in -ski, -cki, -dzki, -arz, -wicz, -czak, or -czyk — but Slavic nonetheless), because the Slavic Pope signaled the “vestibule” to the time of Christ’s coming.
    Thank you for your attention.

  14. Richard M. Popielarz says

    Wouldn’t it also be a marvelous conclusion to God’s Plan that an African Pope would reign at the end of human history before Christ’s coming in order to close the cycle which began with the origin of humans that have been proven to exist first in Africa? GOD IS A FANTASTIC PLAYWRIGHT AND DIRECTOR!!!

  15. bojangles says

    That’s not necessarily true that if they’re from Africa they were black. The inhabitants of South Africa are actually white. Even if he wouldn’t be the first African Pope, he still might be the first black Pope.


  16. yippie says

    would be the last Pope before the Anti-Christ.

    Wouldn’t it also be a marvelous conclusion to God’s Plan that an African Pope would reign at the end of human history

    so are you looking forward to a new pope? or the end of the world?

  17. Justice M. Mbuh says

    Pope is Pope, true, but….. A black Pope, especially coming from Nigeria and South Eastern Nigeria of all places will mean an either or to humanity: either mankind would have come closer in closing the race and religious tensions or mankind would have no choice but confront them headlong! And I’m talking here about Islam versus Christianity which currently divides Nigeria almost in half–with the north predominantly Islam and the South predominantly Christian.

    With Religious riots targeting predominant Christians in the North, a Nigerian Pope would have mixed feelings and results. A Papal intervention in religious riots could lead to bringing regions closer or it could spark unprecedented revolts and tensions with Mecca which currently finances an Islamization Policy of most countries South of the Sahara and in Nigeria especially. Thus what are the chances of a Nigerian Pope? Fifty-Fifty! Dead Head, deadly tense!

    Comparatively, Africa has less chances of winning the papalcy, especially given Latin America and Italian candidates–for the simple reason that those factors discussed above are absent in these two place, (including Germany!).

    But we hear of the Power of the Holy Spirit doing wonderful miracles? This is the time for such a Miraculous Pope to be elected and heal mankind of our troublems! (Troubles and Problems). My experience on the evening of the passing of Pope John Paul II is a living experience: I called a friend I had just visited to inform them of the Pope’s passing; then turning to the TV, and reflecting on what I had written about the Pope in his contributions in sparking “The Winds of Change” that freed most countries of Eastern Europe from Communist dictatorship, including his native land Poland, his visit to all parts of the world particularly Africa and even Cuba where Castro himself had to attend Church service!, I said, “WHAT A MAN! WE WOULD MISS HIM GREATLY!” Then a chill ran through me, literally shocking me like current or as if I suddenly sat on ice and miracles began to happen, one after another–from personal issues to health matters, I could tell I have been touched, blessed!

    I was particularly fun of Pope John Paul II, though I never met him, haven seen him from a distance when he visited my home town of Bamenda, in 1985. But my connection with him was about tracking his utterances and watching things unfold, like he warned Cameroun President about how he was governing the country and discriminating against others–such as the Anglophones who now want their total independence given President Paul Biya never heeded the Pope’s warning! Shortly after that visit, Cameroun’s President also pronounced to the world an economic crises which had no meaning at all, given that just three years earlier that country was the fastest growing economy in Africa with a steady six percent annual growth rate for almost a decade! How then did the Pope’s visit coincide with all of these?

    The Pope was out to decry voodoo politics and Occultism that currently rule Cameroun politics and having been a living witness to these matters and now testifying, having done so in two huge books, what else is there to say, than “what a man!”? That is why whoever the Holy Spirit chooses to fill his shoes and robes has a much bigger task ahead given precedence set by Pope John Paul II!

    An African Pope would mean confronting the ills of Humanity with greater force, a Latin American moderation with some continuity, a European back to conservatism and ruling status quo a priori John Paul II! A Black Pope, ‘this time around,’ as in Nigerian parlance, would benefit Nigeria more than any other peoples–for that country will be given the opportunity to help mankind heal religious differences amidst other ills such as corruption, embezzlement, witchcraft and even gender issues–a thing most prevalent in the entire less developed world in which Christianity now thrives! The world is watching as we equally hold our breath: are we witnessing “The Second Coming” days? We are living in unprecedented times, and God alone knows how the Papalcy has become so powerful and so loved by all in every religion! Bottom-line: It’s a good and great thing humanity is taking matters of faith more seriously these days!
    Justice M. Mbuh
    Washington, DC, MD, USA

  18. Greg says

    John McGrath
    Very easy to say race doesn’t matter when every time you turn around every biblical figure is represented by one and only one race, despite the description. Anyone who can sit here and say that if Jesus was portrayed as a black man there would be no difference is fooling themselves. And if you believe it makes no difference how about going to your church and suggesting a change in the one depicted at your church possibly in a picture hanging on the wall. 😉

    To me that proves just how much race does play a role.

    As someone mentioned earlier much of history is based on the victors account and not always based on facts and truth.

  19. Arc. Abiodun Adepoju says

    While I congratulate the new Pope from Germany for his election to the highest position in the Catholic denomination of Christianity,it is my hope that his first tour outside Rome would be to Nigeria. With the growing number of the Catholic faithfuls in Nigeria, which probably surpasses many other nations, one naturally expected the Pope to come from Nigeria. Cardinal Arinze still has the chance going by his age, though one does not pray for the early demise of the newly elected Pope. Black Popes of the past are debatable,any black elected today as Pope is not arguable. Above all, may the Lord give our Pope, good health, sound wisdom and long live. May we witness peace and prosperity during his tenure.

  20. John Wesley says

    It is a shame that John McGrath is so anti-black. Whether they were Punick or Tunisian or a “Moor” they were all dark complexioned people. The Arabs were a mixed people with darker features as well, as can be seen today if you look a great deal of people from the Middle East and even India. NO, the were not “Black” in the western since which promotes racism and separation of people, but they were African nonetheless. They were not European, Caucasian, or even white.

  21. John Wesley says

    I was at my daughters PTA meeting on yesterday (Which happens to be a private Christian school) and the kids were being quizzed in Science facts. The teacher ask “Who was considered the father of medicine”? Well the kids all shouted Hippocrates. I approached him after the meeting and suggested to him that while Hippocrates can be considered the father of Greek medicine, he actually studied under Imhotept in African. The teacher, who is a white male, did not appreciate the “correction” and stated that he would have to look up that information.
    Such should be the case for the teacher in the algebra and geometry courses as well. When you all get the chance please GOOGLE for The three astronomy princesses. History suggest that these African women were the creators of Algebra and modern math.

    Greeks like Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato studied in Africa and took concept (Even the notion of a Nation/State) back to Greece. The Pythagorem Theorem was borrowed and never included footnotes or references to the source.

  22. Patrick Kafuko says

    With all the different views on christianity, religion etc I further come to believe that we or rather christians as well as other denominations or better still “the God fearing” have got it all wrong.

    I stand to be corrected: the world is becoming increasingly more and more immoral and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it. Its OK to be hopeful that all will be well again, but lets sit and hold that thought because its not going to get any better.

    One week of evening news and you have had enough. Its all poverty, sickness, wars, and the list is endless.

    In a comment made earlier one writer comments of how one of the Popes died poor because of his efforts assisting the poor. I will reserve my comments on the current situation.

    Religion is a seperatist phenomenon. Divisions cause more and more strife. Termites are a good example of how well cooperation works for the good of the group. Its sad to say the answers are there for all to see in a termite mound.

  23. says

    The people of the world are richer than they’ve ever been. The standard of living has improved tremendously for everyone. Sickness is far less of a problem than it was 100 years ago or more, and life expectancies are up. Wars are always going to be around. Remember, the evening news needs conflict to make you watch. You won’t ever hear stories about how pollution is on the decline or about how women get paid as much as men or anything like that… improvement is boring!

    The only religions causing strife around the world are the ones that haven’t yet experienced an enlightenment. Christianity went through a rough patch (Crusades, Inquisition), but after the enlightenment, it has been transformed into a force for good. The main religion causing conflict around the world right now is Islam. Islam is still in the dark ages. Radical Christians do things like buy “promise rings” and boycott PG-13 movies and TV shows with homosexuality. Radical Islamists kill homosexuals, train children to become suicide bombers, strap explosive to retards, rape and kill women (who are given no rights), and wish to kill anyone who does not believe in their religion as well as any innocents who happen to get in the way.

    • Sovereign Entity says

      Will someone please tell me when this Christian enlightenment took place? You shouldn’t make such a claim when here in the US over the last 400 years the church has been so incoherent confused, irrational, and muddled on the race issue. Fact there are still churches in this country that dot allow blacks to become members. There are still segregated cemeteries in this country. And my friend people live longer today only because you can live with disease now. Cancer is still cancer and there is more cancer per 1000 people today than it was in 1800.

  24. danny says

    What I hate most about this thread is the Americanisation of history. In that there are two races black and white. This is nonsense, Caucasian does not mean white, it comes from a body found in the Caucus mountians northern Iran. Caucasian is to do with bone structure, as is Negroid, Mongoliod. Caucasians are found from India, Yes North Africa and the Middle East. As to race their are countless, in Europe, Southern, Germanic, Slavic and everything in between. The same goes for Africa, just look at Rawanda. This constant competion between who was white and black in history is nonsence, Septimus Severus was Roman first, your arguments would have been complete non-sense to him. Stop trying to place your petty arguments on great historical figures and try to see them on their own terms don’t use them to win sad race arguments if any of you black or white had met Septimus Severus he would have seen you all as non aristocratic scum and possibly even slaves.

    • Sovereign Entity says

      Rwanda and what may or may not happen there is the product of Caucasian interference. We couldn’t destinguish a Tutsis from a Hutus before you helped us to destinguish.

  25. nothing says

    TRIES to ancounter us hunh .. you will never make it …. give money and change the religion .. is that what Jesus had taught you??

  26. Rene Enriquez says

    I don’t think anyone would care who the next Pope is unless he allowed Gay Marriage, & allowed Priests and Nuns to marry like in the Middle-Ages. We are in the year 2010 for God Sakes. The catholic church now believes that theres a possibility of ETs excisting yet ignores the human-rights of their own employees. A former Jesuit Priest is my friend and thinks the same. Jesuit priests were once allowed to marry but live lifes of poverty. No sexual contact can create psychiatric disorders. Some become molestors. There’s molesters in every religion known to man but sexual deprivation can lead to unhealthy temptations. Before you comment you need to understand that yes I’m Catholic but I’m also educated so STFU and be open-minded and be considerate. Ask yourself…would jesus be compationate enough to agree with me? if you said no then you aren’t catholic because living compationate life like jesus is what matters not other stories we are told to read. Drinking or simulating drinking wine should be banned aswell since it promotes alcoholism. Priests that smoke should be layed off since they are addicted to a drug or be put in drug recovery facilities. A harmful drug is a drug regardless whether its legal or not.