Our Turn Now - Hopes High Across Latin America For Its First-Ever Pope

EL DIARIO, SEXENIO (Mexico), LA PRENSA (Honduras), LA VOZ (Argentina), LAVANGUARDIA (Spain)


Latin America's time has come. The papacy is ours for the taking. Strong candidates walking into the conclave, and more than 40% of the world's Catholics come from this region.

This is exactly what Latin America's faithful, and newspapers, were saying back in 2005, just before the conclave that elected Joseph Ratzinger - a German. Will history repeat itself, or be made?

Cardinals in conclave by country. Those in peach have 1 attending. Map by Starus

This time the region has one clear frontrunner Odilo Pedro Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At 63, he leads the largest diocese, in the country with the most Catholics in the world. He embodies two of the many qualities that will be decisive at the time of the election: Vatican and pastoral experience.

Among all Latin American candidates, Scherer has one very important quality: he is European, in character, formation and even ascendance as reported by Mexican magazine Sexenio.

Telemundo conducted a poll on its show “Al Rojo Vivo” asking preferences for who should succeed Benedict XVI. Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, with more than 50,000 votes, tops the list. The Honduran daily La Prensa reports that the popular 70-year-old is respected throughout the region, but probably too progressive to be elected by his cardinal peers. He was followed far behind by someone outside of Latin America: Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana with fewer than 6000 votes.

A church in Buenos Aires (blmurch)

Barecelona-based La Vanguardia reports on a more likely choice: Mexican Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara. Mexico is the second-most Catholics in the world (92.9 million, 83.9% of the population). Robles, 64, who will be participating for the first time in a conclave, Robles was quoted as saying “there is seemingly no possibility for a Mexican to be chosen as Pope." But when asked directly about himself being chosen, he said he would assume “whatever the will of God holds for the future of service to the Church.”

From Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio archbishop of Buenos Aires has been mentioned as a candidate this time, as he was in 2005. The son of Italian immigrants, Bergoglio was reported to have the second most votes during the secret conclave that elected Benedicto XVI. It was Bergoglio himself who asked to not be elected, according to La Voz. At 76, he may be a bit old this time.

Horacio Simián Yofre, a priest from Santa Fe, Argentina was asked if the thought the next Pope could be Latin American. “I think we are still far away. At this time I don’t know if there is anybody prepared enough in Latin America to become Pope. Some years ago, Bergoglio was well prepared,” Simián told It19digital reported.

Altogether, there are 19 Cardinals from Latin America in the Conclave, far behind the 60 in Europe (with 28 in Italy alone). Of the estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, some 483 million live in Latin America, according to Vatican figures. Europe comes in second with 23.7% followed by Africa with 15.2%, Asia with 11.7%, North America with 7.3% and Oceania with 0.8%. Of the ten countries with the most Catholics, four are in Latin America, topped by Brazil with 123 million, more than any other country in the world.

Rector of La Salle University in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, Miguel Ángel Valdés said the time is ripe, El Diario reports. “We know the highest number of Catholics are concentrated in this region, it is desirable for the new Pope to be Latin American, it is our time”, said Valdés.

Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops Conference, added his voice to those in favor of a Latin American, Sexenio reports. “This is a time for Cardinals to decide if it is or not time to send a clear signal that the Church is international. Whether the new Pope will be from Latin America will be a very important issue," said Zollitsch. "There are a series of very distinguished Cardinals from Latin America. They are open and disciplined at the same time. They have deep faith, and would be in condition to represent the Church with vigor and honor.”

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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