A grand reception by thousands of Catholic faithful and people of diverse religious backgrounds awaits Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson as he returns to Ghana from the Vatican City to celebrate his appointment to the high office of President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The leadership of the Catholic Church is scheduled to address a news conference at the National Catholic Secretariat in Accra today, during which it is expected to unveil a programme of activities to celebrate Cardinal Turkson’s historic achievement.
The Daily Graphic has, however, gathered that the congregation in Cape Coast and residents of the ancient town will pour onto the principal streets of the town, where Cardinal Turkson has oversight responsibility as Archbishop, to celebrate him.
The appointment of the 61-year-old Ghanaian Cardinal into the universal church administration makes him the personification of Africa in church matters and the topmost African prelate in the Roman Curia after the retirement of Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria last December.
By this appointment, Cardinal Turkson has lifted the flag and image of Ghana very high and, according to knowledgeable figures within the Catholic community, the appointment narrows his proximity to the highest office of Pope.
He will now collaborate closely with the Supreme Pontiff (the Pope) in administering the Universal Church through the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican.
With his appointment, Cardinal Turkson also brings to Rome the church's lone non-retired Cardinal with an advanced degree in Scriptural Studies.
On October 24, 2009 when the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, first announced the appointment at the start of a synod press conference, close associates of Cardinal Turkson told the Daily Graphic that he had received the news with a broad smile and a giggle as journalists applauded.
Later that afternoon, the Pope himself confirmed the appointment during a special luncheon with bishops attending the synod.
'I can say here that I have decided to name Cardinal Turkson the new President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace,
successor of Cardinal Martino.
Thank you, Your Eminence, for accepting; we are glad that you will be with us soon,' the Pope announced to a cheering assembly of bishops.
Cardinal Turkson accepted the new office with humility and thanked the Pope for giving him the opportunity to serve the church in that new role.
The announcement ended a month of speculation in the Western media about who would take charge of that responsibility and when it came the spontaneous applause and excitement by the audience clearly demonstrated that the man affectionately referred to in the Catholic world as 'the personable and enthusiastic Cardinal' had satisfied the anxiety of all.
The October 24 issue of Whispers in the Loggia said, 'Turkson has attracted significant attention as the gathering’s (African Synod’s) lead spokesman, alongside the growing chorus that’s tapped him as the continent’s foremost papabile of the moment.'
As the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Turkson’s job will be to promote justice and peace in the world in the light of the Gospel and social teaching of the church.
This involves social justice, the world of work, international life, development in general, social development, ethical reflection on the evolution of economic and financial systems, problems associated with the environment and the responsible use of the earth’s resources.
His office also deals with a broad range of questions relating to war, disarmament, the arms trade, international security, violence in all forms (terrorism, exaggerated nationalism, etc), political systems, role of Catholics in the political arena, the promotion of World Day of Peace and deepening the doctrine of dignity of the human person.
Although the task may seem enormous, the illustrious son from Nsuta Wassa in the Western Region is expected to draw deep from his wide international exposure, experience in handling some of the issues at home and elsewhere and his fluency in several languages, including English, Italian, French, German and Hebrew, to live up to the Pope’s calling.
Cardinal Turkson was born at Nsuta Wassa on October 11, 1948. He entered St Teresa’s Seminary (Amisano) in 1962, St Peter’s Seminary (Pedu) from 1969 to 1971, after which he moved to St Anthony-on-the Hudson, Rensselaer (Albany) for the rest of his theological training.
He was ordained on July 20, 1975 at the Francis de Sales Cathedral, Cape Coast, by the late Archbishop, the Most Rev John Kodwo Amissah. He later had his Biblical scholarship at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (1976-1980, 1987-1992).
Cardinal Turkson succeeded Archbishop Amissah in 1993 and was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II at the public consistory of October 2003.
He served two terms as the President of the Ghana Bishops Conference from 1997 to 2004 and has worked in several pontifical bodies, including the Council for Christian Unity, the Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Supreme Committee of the Pontifical Missions Society (representing Africa).
In Africa he is the current President of the Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) and immediate past Treasurer of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
He is also the immediate past President of the Ghana Chapter of the World Conference of Religions and Peace and the current Chairman of the National Peace Council.