Thursday, March 7, 2013

Get to Know Your Papabile: Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghanaian, 64). Born in a two-room shack in Western Ghana to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father who worked as a carpenter, the fourth child among 10 children. He attended seminary in New York State and was ordained in 1975. In 1992 Turkson was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II and served as president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1997 to 2005. He was created a cardinal, Ghana’s first, at John Paul II’s last consistory in October 2003.

I know you know where Ghana is, but in case you've misplaced it...

Since 2009, Turkson has served in Rome as the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a position from which Turkson has challenged the current state of world economics, calling on Wall Street to "do business differently...because this is not leading to our welfare and our good." He's also called for a "central world bank" to oversee international economics and tax global transactions to help alleviate poverty.

Turkson speaks English, Fante, French, Italian, German and Hebrew, in addition to understanding Latin and Greek. His training is in scripture, and he also serves as a member for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Turkson gets a load of a whole lot of crazy.
(Translation: Dannnnnnnnng.) 

He's had his gaffes. He's been interpreted by some as defending homophobic legislation like Uganda's "Kill the Gays" law, explaining the "intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition." (His explanation gets more nuanced as it goes: “Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people. So, if it [homosexuality] is being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.” 

It also, in other contexts, gets more troubling: reacting to Ban Ki-Moon's call for homosexuality to be decriminalized in Africa, Turkson said, "When you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights?...He [Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.”  Has also implied that the pedophilia scandal is a largely Western phenomenon connected to homosexuality in the priesthood.

His uncle is a Muslim, yet at the Synod of Bishops in 2010 Turkson showed a video he showed decrying the surge of Muslims in Europe. 

Wacky Facts: He would not be the first African pope, but the fourth, following Victor I (189-198 AD) from North Africa; Miltiades (311-314 AD); and Gelasius I (492-496 AD), both of whom were of African descent.  (But you knew that, right?) Also, grew up liking the music of James Brown and shimmying up coconut trees to collect coconuts. And he's not fabulous at parking in Rome (but who is Daily News? You?)

Other Quotes from Cardinal Turkson:
"If, by divine providence, God would wish to have a black man as pope, I say thanks be to God!"

"We need to get back to being transparent to the power of the Gospel again... the Christians and the Church become transparent to the power of Christ that is in the Church."

In the Movie He'd be Played by: Are you kidding?

Yes, I know, Denzel does not look like Cardinal Turkson other than they're both black. Seriously, it doesn't matter. Denzel can play anyone. He's played a bad cop, Malcolm X and Steven Biko, for God's sake. He can play the Pope.

If He Doesn't Become Pope, He Could: Run Occupy Wall Street.

If He Became Pope, He Might Take the Name: Augustine -- another African scholar with a fierce intellect and challenging conceptions on sexuality. 
Why the Cardinals Might Choose Him: Has experience both on the pastoral side and on the Curial. Fresh voice. Charismatic. 
Why They Might Not:  He's a bit young. He's a bit radical on some issues and sheltered on others. Some perceive him as campaigning for the job. 

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