Wednesday, January 27, 2010

People of the Year - #2

From Inside the Vatican

Each year for the past 10 years, Inside the Vatican has chosen 10 "People of the Year" -- men and women of courage, vision, learning and faith.

I find myself unable to write currently, and so in my desire to bring Freedom Through Truth, will be bringing to you things that I have seen and admire for their veracity.

Here is the second member of that illustrious group.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson
Some think he could be the next Pope.
He himself doesn’t waste a thought on the idea — he is focused on doing what he can now to help bring the Gospel to Africa, and in so doing, to bring a better life to the people of his troubled continent.
And now Pope Benedict has called him to Rome to become the highest-ranking African in the Roman Curia, following the retirement of Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. He will head the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, which deals with the great social issues of our time.
Our selection of Cardinal Turkson as one of our “Top Ten” of 2009 is in part the selection of all those in Africa, and around the world, who labor to bring justice and pecae in their countries.

Africa is always present in the mind and heart of Peter Kodwo (Monday) Appiah Turkson. He was born on a Monday, and according to his country’s tradition, his first name, Kodwo, is that of the day he was born.

This cardinal from Ghana, 61 years on October 11 during the bishops synod on Africa in the Vatican, is a man who knows media well. And that is not small news. Especially in a time when the communication of the Church is in deep crisis.

He is also a man with a profound insight into the great global problems of our time, including the emerging conflict between the West and Islam. Turkson told the Synod on Africa,m which met in Rome this October, that in his native Ghana, but also in many other countries, religious diversity has never been a problem, that in the same family there may be Catholic, Methodist and even Islamic brothers and sisters.

What does this mean? For Turkson, the intrusive and dangerous Is­lam now emerging is not the “classical” Islam but a new, politicized Islam which spreads and sneak into the souls of simple people. This is a concern for everybody, not only for Christians.

Among the internal problems of the Church, on the other hand, Turkson believes one of the most serious problems in Africa is the education of priestsand faithful alike. The catechists often only have a superficial education, and old beliefs often continue to live in the hearts of the converts. If some of them choose to become priests, the danger is doubled.

What should be done? The cardinal believes that the future priests should study in Africa, and not be sent to study in Europe before their ordination. Local seminaries must be strengthened and African anthropology and philosophy must be studied deeply in order to shape a formative and informed theology, he says. As bishop of Cape Coast in Ghana, Turkson invited deacons to live with him some months before their ordination, in order to know each other better and to learn to work together.
What else should be done? This cardinal from Ghana believes that the most important thing of all is to stimulate the Africans’ capacity, their positivity, their richness, their "Africanness."
At the Synod, the cardinal shook his fellow bishops and told them not to feel sorry for themselves but to act and react. And they, the African bishops gathered in the Vatican, celebrated him three times in 21 days: October 11th because it was his 61st birthday; October 17th because his country, Ghana, defeated Brazil in the Under-20 soccer World Cup; and on October 24th, the day before the end of the Synod, for his appointment as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
As relator of the Synod he spent many nights correcting propositions and summarizing emendments, but also talking and getting to know people.

His curriculum of studies starts in Ghana, continues in New York and at the Gregoriana University in Rome with a Doctorate at the Biblical Institute in 1992, and with the unexpected appointment to bishop of Cape Coast, after the sudden death of his predecessor. He is at ease with languages: English, French, Italian and German, not to mention Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

As new President of Justice and Peace he talks about justice in Africa in the family, in the relationship between man and woman, with their children, and says: “When I talk about family I also think about the tribe, which in Africa is a broader family. We don’t even have a word for cousins and nephews: in our country, my cousin is my brother.”

In the text of the propositions of the Synod there is also a piece of advice for Iustitia et pax. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is asked “to promote an African Peace and Solidarity Initiative.” In Ghana, Turkson presided over the National Peace Council, composed of five religious leaders and of six cultural, economic and social leaders. “I have discussed it with the bishops of Togo, where there will be elections in February. We must not leave the politicians to their own devices, they must feel that someone is controlling their actions.”

On October 24, 2009, Cardinal Turkson was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, replacing Cardinal Renato Martino, who had reached the retirement age. Cardinal Turkson will work with the secretary, Bishop Mario Toso, appointed two days previously, on behalf of peace and justice around the world.
And in future?
“If God would wish to see a black man also as Pope, thanks be to God,” Turkson once said. —Angela Ambrogetti

No comments: