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Seven People We’d Nominate For “Cultural Pope”
February 11, 2013
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This hasn't happened for a while: for the first time in almost 600 years, an active Pope has announced that he's stepping down.

Pope Benedict XVI says he'll resign February 28 due to his age and deteriorating strength. He's 85 years old.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," the Pope said.

Apparently the announcement came as a surprise even to those closest to the pontiff, and there's no word yet on who might succeed him.

Well, we have no idea which member of the Catholic church will get the nod to follow Benedict XVI.

But whoever becomes Pope, he (we're pretty sure it'll be a "he") will wield profound influence over millions of people.

It got us thinking about people who we think deserve to have that kind of influence. We'd like to take this opportunity to nominate a few people to become the world's first "Cultural Pope" - a pontiff of sorts who is responsible for spreading good things around the world.

pope-shiva.jpgVandana Shiva

To be an effective cultural pontiff, you'll need intelligence, wisdom, and a real drive to change the world. And it won't hurt if you're someone who works hard to be in harmony with the world, as well.

Philosopher, physicist, environmental activist, author and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva fits the bill perfectly: she's spent more than 30 years fighting for the environment and the rights of the underprivileged. Sounds like Cultural Pope material to us.

pope-young.jpgNeil Young

You know those moments when the music you're listening to seems to connect you with something bigger than yourself? If you're familiar with the music of Neil Young, you might well have experienced that feeling.

Neil's work is transcendent, human, powerful, and yes, Canadian. And alongside his amazing musical career, he's worked tirelessly to help other people, from the small farmers who benefited from 1985's Farm Aid concert which he co-founded, to the children with severe verbal and physical disabilities who are enrolled at the Bridge School, for which Neil organizes an annual benefit concert. For his incredible music and his great soul, Neil would be an ideal Cultural Pope.

pope-dawkins.jpgRichard Dawkins

While Richard Dawkins is definitely not in the running to become the actual Pope, he has dedicated a lot of his life to promoting his belief that people should "seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs," both in his role as a vice president of the British Humanist Association and as the author of books like 'The God Delusion'.

And although this may sound a little contradictory, Richard would be a great choice for Cultural Pope because he can probably commune with Christopher Hitchens (wherever he may be). And with Hitch as your advisor, you're bound to succeed.


She's already one of the world's most influential people, so let's just make it official. The hashtag pretty much writes itself (#Poprah, anyone?), and Oprah is an inspiration to millions of people.

Through her TV show and now her network, Oprah has encouraged literacy, brought to light the plight of young children affected by poverty and AIDS in South Africa, started Oprah's Angel Network, a charity that supports charitable projects and provides grants to non-profits worldwide, and given away about $400 million of her own money to educational causes. Let's just say she's qualified.

pope-burke.jpgBrian Burke

To be an effective Cultural Pope, you've got to be tough sometimes. Well, former Leafs, Whalers, Canucks and Ducks GM Brian Burke won't have any trouble with that: he's always been known for his outspoken manner and willingness to be direct.

But he's also embraced a cause that goes way beyond hockey. A few years ago, Brian's 21-year-old son Brendan announced that he was gay (a few months later, Brendan was tragically killed in a car accident). Brian has become a spokesperson for tolerance in the sporting world. Being willing to stand up for what you believe in, and spreading a message of love? That's a good trait in a Cultural Pope.


How qualified is Bono to become Cultural Pope? Well, he's already got a cool, easy to remember name (he was born Paul David Hewson). His band U2 has written some of the most iconic music of the last thirty-plus years. And he's worked tirelessly as an activist for Africa, co-founding DATA, EDUN, the ONE Campaign, and Product Red.

He's also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, been awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, and been named Person of the Year by Time. Not a bad resume, really.

pope-savage.jpgDan Savage

How's this for a message to all the lost, lonely kids who aren't sure if they'll survive adolescence because they're constantly attacked for being different? "It gets better." That's the message that author, pundit, journalist and newspaper editor Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller have worked hard to promote in the last few years, partly in response to the suicide of 14-year-old Billy Lucas.

The project has generated thousands of videos from public figures sharing their stories, including President Obama. So he's already working with some of the most powerful people in the world to bring about positive change. Sounds like a great Cultural Pope to us.

So those are seven of our picks. Who would you nominate to be Cultural Pope? And do you like the idea?


Update: Pope Says You CAN'T Confess Via iPhone

It Gets Better, Canada


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