The cardinals in Rome should choose an Asian, African or Latin American to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.

If the cardinals vote based on where they come from, then it is unlikely we would see a pope who is not from Europe, where every pope in modern history was born. A majority of the 117 cardinals come from Europe.

But their nationalities do not reflect the changing demographics of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

There are around 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, and a majority of Catholics now live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The biggest concentration of Catholics is in Latin America and the Caribbean, at 39 percent. This is followed by Europe at 24 percent, sub-Saharan Africa at 16 percent, Asia and the Pacific at 12 percent, North America at 8 percent and the Middle East and North Africa at 1 percent, according to 2010 figures from the Pew Research Center.

The five countries with the largest Catholic populations are Brazil (more than 125 million), Mexico (96 million), the Philippines and the United States (approximately 75 million each) and Italy (roughly 50 million).

Selecting a Latin American pope would help the Catholic Church further grow the number of faithful in the United States and Latin America.

An African or Asian pope would help grow Catholicism on those continents.

Most Catholics are no longer European and putting a nonwhite face on the papacy might inspire the faithful around the world. They would be able to see themselves better reflected in the church.

The names of several non-European cardinals have been mentioned as possible successors to Pope Benedict, who became the first pope to announce his resignation in more than 700 years. They include Peter Turkson of Ghana, Francis Arinze of Nigeria, Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Oscar Maradiaga of Honduras, and Odilo Scherer and Joao Braz de Aviz, both from Brazil.

Of course, our faith should be colorblind. Race, ethnicity or nationality should not be a qualification for the job.

What Catholics need most is a leader who will welcome everyone into the church and who will look at ways to examine whether church doctrine makes sense in today's modern world. Birth control, gay marriage and women priests are just some of the issues some Catholics like myself would like the church to re-examine. The world is changing, and the church needs to change, too.

Catholics also need a leader who will protect our children and will vigorously prosecute those priests or clergy who sexually abuse the vulnerable.

The cardinals should select a pope who will best represent the faith and most eloquently speak for those who are voiceless and oppressed. And the pope must be a universal leader who can inspire us to live by the golden rule to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

When the smoke signals rise from the Vatican indicating the conclave of cardinals has selected a new pope, it would be powerful if this time the ashes were a shade darker than white.

Teresa Puente teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago and also writes the Chicanisima blog at She can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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