Cardinal plays increasingly influential role in church


A few weeks before African Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke with children at St. Mary School in Vineland on Nov. 1, he was addressing the United Nations.

Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, represented the Vatican at the Sept. 20-22 summit of heads of state and government on the Millennium Development Goals, which set out to halve poverty by 2015.

Addressing the leaders Sept. 20, the Ghanaian cardinal told them that he spoke not only as a religious leader, but also as an African and a man coming from a poor family.

The summit was convoked to assess the progress made in the past 10 years toward reducing poverty, combating disease, fighting hunger, protecting the environment and improving access to education.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Turkson head of the Vatican justice and peace council just over a year ago, on Oct. 24, 2009.

Cardinal Turkson, Ghana’s first cardinal, enjoyed a high profile during the 2009 second special Synod of Bishops for Africa. He served as the synod’s recording secretary — a key role many had already seen as a clear sign of papal favor. During the synod he spoke very candidly to reporters about condoms being unreliable in preventing the transmission of the HIV virus and said they may even facilitate the spread of the disease by giving people “a false sense of security” and thereby fostering promiscuity.

He spoke out on the need for the Catholic notion of justice in Africa and the world.

God’s justice does not demand payment for wrongdoing “because God overlooks our transgressions … and admits us into communion,” he said during the Oct. 5 press conference.

When Christians think like God does, they begin to forgive one another and recognize each other as brothers and sisters no matter what their nationality or ethnicity, he said.

Contributing to this story was Catholic News Service.