Resignation aftermath: Time for 1st Asian pope?
'A Eurocentric papacy threatens the Church because the Church has moved on. We are a global Church.'

MANILA, Philippines – In a surprise announcement, Pope Benedict XVI says he will resign on February 28, paving the way for the election of a new pontiff. It also opens up the possibility of an Asian pope.

Paterno Esmaquel reports. (Watch video report below.)

It’s shocking, but also exciting. 

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI fuels hope for the first Asian pope. On Twitter, Filipinos cheer for their own bet – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

But statistics show Europeans – not Asians like Tagle – will dominate the papal elections called the conclave.

Less than a tenth of electors come from Asia, the 3rd fasting growing continent when it comes to Catholic Church members. 

Most electors come from Europe, making up over half of the whole group. Europe is the only continent that saw a decrease in church membership in 2012.

Though he is Indian, Fr Michael Ignatius of the East Asian Pastoral Institute wants Tagle to clinch the papacy. He believes time is ripe for an Asian pope.

FR. MICHAEL IGNATIUS, INDIAN PRIEST: Now Christianity is fully in Asia; no more, Christianity is not in Europe. For 2,000 years the European have not really guided the Church. Given a chance, how will an Asian guide the Church, and see? And Jesus was an Asian, not a European, for that matter.

Like Fr Ignatius, American nun Sister Clare Lentz wants a pope from outside Europe.

SR. CLARE LENTZ, AMERICAN NUN: A Eurocentric papacy threatens the Church because the Church has moved on. We are a global Church.

Sister Lentz also wants Tagle to lead the Catholic Church, saying she admires his willingness to listen.

SR. CLARE LENTZ, AMERICAN NUN: I love Fr Tagle. He is so simple. And he’s going to all of those universities, and he’s having open meetings with the students, with Muslims, with everybody. And he asks them, “What do you think?” What a different way to approach the People of God. “What do you think?” Not to say, “This is what the Church believes.” He listens.

Tagle doesn’t address calls for him to become pope. 

In a message Tuesday, he says he is sad Benedict XVI resigned. But he adds, “Sadness gives way to admiration for the Holy Father’s humility, honesty, courage, and sincerity.”

In March, Tagle’s largely European group will meet in Rome to elect the next pope.

PATERNO ESMAQUEL, REPORTING: Does a pope’s nationality even matter? Well, culture shapes any leader. And the place that raised him, the people he met, the problems he encountered will certainly influence the Catholic Church. Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila.