On February 28, Pope Benedict XVI officially resigned from his papal duties. This is the first time in 700 years that a Catholic pope has resigned at his own free will. The question has arisen as to whether or not Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana will become the next to take over the leadership position. Many have said that he will represent as the first black pope. However, according to the Book of Pontiffs, there have been three African popes in Catholic history.

Three popes who have represented in Catholism are said to have come from the North African area that is present-day Algeria, Mauretania, Numidia, and Tunisia.

First, there was African Pope Saint Victor I, the 15th Pope who reigned from 186-197 A.D.  This pope was said to have decided when to celebrate Easter. He was the first Christian author to write about theology in Latin.

Then there was Pope Saint Militiades, who served from 311-314 A.D. He wrote many of the Catholic hymns and settled issues over fasting on Thursdays or Sundays.

Lastly, there was the 49th Pope, Pope Saint Gelasius I. This African pope declared February 14 as “Valentine’s Day” to honor Bishop Valentine, a priest who had been executied. Gelasius was the third and last Bishop of Rome of Berber North African origin.

The current African Cardinal in the running for Pope Benedict XVI’s position is Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64. Turkson is currently President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2009.

As Pope Benedict’s reign has completed, the Vatican has closed its doors and tied a red ribbon on the door to start the beginning steps toward the conclave ritual. The conclave is expected to begin shortly.

(Photo: AP)

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