Survey: Africans ready for African pope

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Story highlights

  • More than 80% of Africans surveyed say Africa is ready for African pope, but fewer believe world is ready
  • 20,000 people in 11 African nations answered questions about attitudes to the pope and Catholicism
  • Africans shared thoughts on the Catholic Church and faith, racism, homosexuality and the future

Thousands of Africans have expressed their hopes that the next pope will be the first from their continent -- with a majority believing it would mean the Catholic Church becoming more conservative.

The survey of 20,000 people, conducted on mobile phones across 11 nations, also exposed big divisions among Africans about the future direction of the church, including faith, homosexuality and race.

"An African pope will bring about more unity on the continent and confidence in Africans," said one woman from Zimbabwe, while a young Nigerian man polled said an African pope "will eradicate immoralities, such as same-sex marriage."

CNN commissioned the survey, partnering with Jana.com, which has pioneered polling in developing countries with fast-growing mobile networks.

Jana, meaning 'people' in Sanskrit, rewards participants in their mobile phone surveys with additional air time.

Mobile phone use has skyrocketed in Africa, climbing from 9.2 million subscribers in 2000 to more than 648 million subscribers in 2011 -- more users than the U.S. or the European Union, according to the World Bank.

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More than 80% of those surveyed believe their continent is ready for an African pope, but only 61% thought the rest of the world was too.

    Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is viewed by Vatican observers as the top African contender, according to John Allen, CNN analyst and correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

    READ: Who are the possible papal contenders?

    Most respondents (86%) thought an African pope would increase support for Catholicism in Africa, while just over 50% believed the church would become more conservative if that happened. On the other hand, 21% thought that it would become less conservative.

    CNN also asked respondents what an African pope would mean for them and for Africa. The comments revealed a wide range of views on the church's role.

    Check out our Wordle of responses to the survey

    "It would help strengthen the faith and belief of all African Catholics," said one Ghanaian. "They will feel a part of the church."

    "Will he stop the ongoing war in some African countries?" asked a Namibian responder.

    "He may be like the rest of them and just stay in the church; anyway they don't make any difference in Africa."

    Read full results of the survey carried out for CNN by Jana

    A Zimbabwean man surveyed also said he feared that an African pope would not be treated equally to other popes.

    "I think at first people might not accept him and it would take a long time for him to blend in, so his impact will not be that great."

    Jana conducted the poll between 7-11 March 2013 with mobile phone users from Lesotho, Rwanda, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.