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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12 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: African Popes

  1. Catherine Octavia Sinclair on said:

    I Always knew this in Catholic Elementary school tbe good nuns always,spoke of this and one of 3 wise men Baltazar

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  3. Alberta on said:

    Why call them father…they never called me daughter..besides I never met any Pope. Hey how about someone contact the next Pope tell him to give me a call Ok…my daddy’s name was Isaiah..soo they can’t possibly be my dad..& when I speak to GOD I say heavenly Father or Abba or Yahweh..never Benedict or Peter Kodwo..besides I’m American…so we can’t possibly be related. Peace.

  4. Pingback: Odds to become the next pope – Ghana’s Peter Turkson listed as favorite « vineoflife.net

  5. Mike on said:

    I’m no expert on Papal history but I’d like to know a bit more about these “African” Popes. North African was ruled at different times by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, etc. Cleopatra was not African. She was Greek. There may have been some mixed blood, but mostly she was a European white with red hair. I need some evidence!

    • Alice McIntyre on said:

      Mike: It always disturbs me when people say Cleopatra was not African. What so often becomes confused in such conversations and debates are 1) Her place of birth (physical location), 2) Her ancestry or lineage, and 3) That even today in our satellite and GPS mapped world that people still tend to believe that Egypt is physically situated anywhere but on the African Continent. With it being that Egypt (or Kemet) has always been located in the upper right hand corner of the CONTINENT of Africa, and since the lady was born in Egypt, she must therefore be considered an AFRICAN. I, myself, along with the Candaces (Queens of other African nations) and the Priestesses of Isis (to whom Cleopatra had to go to in order to be sanctioned a legitimate heir to the throne of Egypt and thereby initiated into all the rites and privileges of the office), have never confused anything about her ancestry. To the Candaces, the Priestesses and several Roman historians, Cleopatra and her siblings were considered a family of half-crazed, incestuous “mongrels” because their progenitors had inter-married with so many different peoples and races that nobody really knew what they were. Even to this present day there is much scholarly debate on the lineage of the first Ptolemy, Alexander’s general and so-called adopted brother, and founder of the Ptolemy Dynasty. Some scholars believe he may have been descended from the Mitanni or Hittites, others believe he may have been from India, and still others believe he may have come from the Mesopotamian area. Why? Most of the arguments are based in linguistics.

      • WOW! its just refreshing to read – black folks talking about their history – what a concept. We need more of it – instead of the day to day BS that permeates our lives daily….

      • Willie Nolley on said:

        I would say that it would be a good read for anyone to get a copy of “From Babylon To Timbuktu” by Rudolph R. Windsor.

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