As the world comes to grips with Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign the papacy later this month, citing poor health and age, the debate over who the next pontiff will be is in full swing, less than 24 hours since the pope made the announcement.
And it doesn’t look good for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, with the top three listed candidates all vehemently anti-LGBT.
Making matters worse, Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has said many of the laws imposed on gay people in Africa are an “exaggeration.”
Tell that to activists in more than 30 African countries, where being gay or lesbian is punishable by lengthy imprisonment, and in Uganda could see the death penalty.
Last year, the National Catholic Register reported the Cardinal saying it is important people understand the ‘reasons’ why some African governments have created legislation against homosexuality.
Turkson argues the ‘intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition’, saying the African culture needs to be respected.
‘When you’re talking about what’s called “an alternative lifestyle”, are those human rights?’ he said.
‘There’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified,” he continued.
LGBT activists have repeatedly told Bikyanews.com over the past few years that they would like to see a policy of tolerance become part of the Catholic Church’s message, and have continued to call on the Vatican to make changes.
“We don’t expect the Church to change all its policies, but the message of Jesus Christ was one of compassion and killing people for being who they are doesn’t seem like Jesus,” said one Rwandan LGBT activist, who asked that their name remain anonymous.
Time will tell who the Church chooses, but many expect an African could very well take on the top job.