Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Cardinal Turkson: one to watch

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 06, 2009

By appointing Cardinal Peter Turkson as relator general of the current African Synod, Pope Benedict guaranteed that the prelate from Ghana would command worldwide attention. Sure enough, Cardinal Turkson is making reporters in Rome take notice. And none more so than America's leading Vatican-watcher, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who previewed the Synod with a column whose headline asserted that the personable cardinal from Ghana is "destined to be an ecclesiastical star." The subhead on Allen's column went one step further, asking:

Could Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, be the next pope?

Yes, that's a question that people naturally ask, when a relatively young (his 61st birthday is next week) cardinal begins attracting notice. At a press briefing for reporters covering the Synod, someone asked Cardinal Turkson directly whether an African cardinal might be the next Roman Pontiff. He replied, simply, "Why not?" And just like that, everyone in the room was asking the question that appeared atop John Allen's NCR column.

Reporters will be watching the African cardinal closely during the Synod, trying to learn more about the man. To date, reporters who cover the Vatican know little about him. But Allen's profile includes an interesting fact:

For months now, Turkson has been widely tipped for a major post in the Roman Curia: President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, succeeding Italian Cardinal Renato Martino, himself almost 77. The hold-up is apparently due to Turkson himself, who’s made it known that he doesn’t want the job, preferring to focus on his pastoral obligations in Ghana. Nonetheless, it’s more or less taken for granted, both in Africa and in Vatican circles, that Turkson will wind up in Rome.

Imagine that: a shepherd who wants to stay with his flock. A prelate who would rather care for souls in Ghana than shuffle papers in Rome. A cardinal who prefers to address the practical problems of people troubled by poverty and disease, rather than come to Rome, where he can dine regularly at fine restaurants and prepare statements on topics like the importance of water. It makes you think...


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 11, 2009 4:20 PM ET USA

    It is very refreshing to say the least to finally see a real Catholic shepherd. I'm all for it. It makes me wonder where the catholic america went wrong. I guess they became catholic americans instead. The Holy Spirit is still working in the world.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 09, 2009 9:41 PM ET USA

    We have one of Cardinal Turkson's priests at our parish. He is here working on a Doctorate at the university. This man gives homilies that offer the unapologetic truths of the catholic Church to the liberal daily Mass attenders. Sometimes I can't get the smile off of my face--to hear from the pulpit the fact that a homosexual lifestyle is intrinsically evil! Is he allowed to say that in a college town? --Never hear a priest openly say that in a homily before...and he says more!