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African Bishops' Profiles Raised In Vatican Synod


We heard there that Pope Francis was engaged in discussions with conservative members of the church hierarchy, especially from Africa. And we're joined now by a senior African Catholic leader, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, the capital of Ghana. Welcome to the program, Archbishop.

CHARLES PALMER-BUCKLE: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Have you found yourself largely in agreement with the pope's path?

PALMER-BUCKLE: Like any pope, he has concerned what has been the time to sit (ph) truth and doctrine of the church. He has brought in, however, a refreshing style of doing it. So more or less, he is inviting all of us to look at the other side of the coin that sometimes I think we as bishops, we as preachers, have overlooked. So I think that is what he has been doing very beautifully. And I share the same feelings with him.

INSKEEP: On one issue, gay rights, this pope has led the way toward a more welcoming attitude. And you have come to this meeting from a continent, Africa, where the vast majority of countries outlaw homosexuality. Should that change?

PALMER-BUCKLE: The pope has definitely called our attention to the fact that everybody that has been created by God is a child of God and has a dignity that cannot and should not be violated. And therefore, we are not to stand in judgment of anybody for whatever orientation or tendency the person may have or may choose. However, I don't think he has made any change of the fact of what the Gospel tells us. It is true that in Africa, most African countries criminalize homosexuality. They will gradually change. But I think Africa needs time to be able to do that. And that is why we believe those powers, those international organizations that would likely disrespect our sovereignty and impose upon us, you know, certain ideology that are contrary to our cultural choices - we would beg them to respect our sovereignty.

INSKEEP: Archbishop, of course this is a pope from South America. You are from Africa - two different regions of what's often called the Global South, where the Catholic Church has seen by far its greatest growth in recent decades. Do you sense that your part of the world, the Global South, is enjoying greater and greater influence within the Catholic Church?

PALMER-BUCKLE: When people talk about influence, I wonder what they mean. I would say we are growing greater and greater participation and recognition, yes.

INSKEEP: But influence, you're not sure.

PALMER-BUCKLE: When people talk about influence, I think we go there to lobby or something of the sort. No, we bring our contribution. I'm looking at, for (unintelligible), out of 270 bishop delegates, 52 of them are African bishops. And so it reflects Africa's 20 percent share of the population of the (unintelligible) Catholic Church. And we were then, not as a block but as individual bishops, representing the people over whom we are as pastor.

INSKEEP: Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, thank you very much.

PALMER-BUCKLE: Thank you very much, and God bless you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.