As I think over the background of Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson as a potential pope, it is hard not to conclude that he is quite qualified, more so than many, if not all, of the other candidates mentioned by the media. Why do I say this?
1. Pastoral experience as a bishop and seminary teacher/administrator in Africa;
2. In a way, he would also be an "American" pope since he received his seminary training in the state of New York;
3. Educated at the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome;
4. Currently heads a Vatican entity (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) and is a member of various important Vatican bodies, including the most important one of all--the body or "congregation" in charge of doctrinal matters;
5. The media reports that he is fluent in Italian and some other major languages;
6. He has an excellent presence on camera;
7. His demeanor is joyful, gentle, and thoughtful;
8. He does not speak in dense jargon that communicates nothing to most ordinary people (I base this view on video I have seen of him giving an interview).
In a way, he is also from an English-speaking nation since English is the official language of Ghana, a former British colony. That background also makes him "American-like." So not only do you get an African pope, but you also get one who has links with American Catholics.
Moreover, his educational training in the U.S. and in Rome, as noted above, gives him the universal outlook needed for a pope.
Finally, he has been a cardinal since 2003 and participated in the 2005 conclave that selected Benedict XVI. I have found no hint of any scandals during that time.
It is also telling that having a "Pope emeritus" is a nice and providential backdrop for the daring choice of a black African pope. The emeritus Pope would be a symbol of continuity who would certainly offer prayerful support and private counsel.
Yet, most important of all, is, in my view, this consideration: another Eurocentric pope is not what the Church needs today. We have had that. We need to go beyond the tiresome agonies and angst of Europe. Ironically, the shortest route to reviving the heart of Europe may, in the end, go through Africa. Sometimes you have to take the long way home. (And, in this Eurocentric category, we can put North America which is beset with a legacy of scandal rooted in immense bureaucratic and moral dysfunction. The universal Church is better off fishing in better waters for a new pope distant from the North American implosion. Ironically, the most hopeful sign for the Church in the U.S. can be seen in the demographic changes propelled by Hispanic growth which can bring a major cultural change to the governing mentality of the Church in the U.S.--as shown by the recent rebuke by Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles of his predecessor.)
In short, I hope the cardinals are daring. There are very good, sensible grounds to justify the daring choice of Turkson. Let's see what happens!
Update: By the way, I have heard some interviewed in the media say that all of these traits are really not important--that the important thing is that the candidate remind you of Jesus. Well, listen to Turkson on video; and he meets that test too--not bombastic, not overbearing, not a clown, not boorish, but rather a calm, happy person radiating sympathy. One way to restate the "Reminds Me of Jesus" test is as follows: if the candidate reminds you of a politician, he fails the "Reminds Me of Jesus" Test.
Update: Related article by Fr. Longenecker at this link.