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Oui, il y a déjà eu un pape africain

Article paru le 12 fevrier 2013.

L’annonce de la démission du souverain pontife, le pape Benoît XVI ce 11 février a été, du moins pour ceux qui suivent ces questions de loin, une véritable surprise.

Dans le même temps, cela a relancé la sempiternelle question d’un pape africain pour diriger l’Eglise catholique. Le 28 février prochain, le siège d’évêque de Rome sera donc vacant et les conjectures quant au conclave qui devra élire le nouveau chef de l’Eglise catholique romaine vont déjà bon train.

Un pape noir? Et pourquoi pas? Le débat est rouvert à chaque occasion, notamment lorsqu’il a fallu élire le pape Jean-Paul II en 1978.

Seulement, pour le site Anecdote du Jour, un pape africain, n’aurait en soi, rien d’inédit. Le site saisit l’occasion de la démission de Benoît XVI pour rappeler que trois Africains ont déjà eu à être «successeur de saint Pierre».

Il s’agit donc pour Anecdote du Jour, de trois Africains originaires d’Afrique du Nord, trois Berbères précisément.

Il y a donc d’abord Victor Ier, né dans l’actuelle Tunisie et qui gouverna l’Eglise catholique à partir de l’an 189 et ce pendant une dizaine d’années. Vint ensuite Miltiade (ou Melchiade). C’est le 32e africain à diriger l’église catholique, di 2 juillet 311 à sa mort  le 10 janvier 314.  Seulement les origines de ce pape sont encore sujettes à polémique.

Selon le Liber Pontificalis (le Livre des papes), Miltiade serait né sur le continent, plus précisément en Afrique du Nord, sans aucune autre précision. Mais pour le théologien américain Richard Mc Brien, serait tout simplement romain.

Enfin, il y eut Gélase Ier, également berbère, qui dirigea l’Eglise catholique romaine de 492 à 496.

Anecdote du jour souligne qu’il n’ y a rien détonnant à tout cela:  

«De nombreuses populations berbères étaient chrétiennes et le pourtour méditerranéen faisait partie de l’Empire romain. On connaît d’ailleurs plusieurs saints chrétiens africains de cette période, comme saint Augustin et sa mère sainte Monique.»

Et le site de conclure que la dislocation de l’Empire romain, les invasion vandales et les conquêtes musulmanes en Afrique ont fait disparaître les derniers chrétiens berbères. Tout ceci, sachant que l’Afrique noire n’a été véritablement évangélisée qu’au début du XIXe siècle.

Lu dans slateMagazine

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