Joy at having her first Cardinal
The decision came out of the blue. It was difficult to tell whether anyone expected it but whatever it is, there is enormous happiness among Ghanaians, even among non-Catholics, as they laud the appointment of one of their eminent citizens onto the papacy ladder.
Ghana s President John Kufuor, himself a Catholic, has even been overwhelmed by the appointment of the affable Peter Appiah Turkson, as a Cardinal.
Archbishop Turkson has made history for Ghana and we are over-joyed, President Kufuor told a delegation of Catholic Bishops who called on him days after the formal announcement was made sometime in September.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rt. Rev. Dr. Sam Prempeh, has described the elevation of Turkson, as a great honour to Ghanaians. As the first Ghanaian Cardinal in the history of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Turkson has placed the Catholic Church and the entire Christian Community in Ghana on a spiritual pedestal and honour, which all Ghanaians must be proud of, he said.
The government s appreciation for the honour was further made manifest when it sent a high-powered delegation to attend the investiture ceremony in Rome in October.
Turkson, 55, has been the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Ghana since 1992. He is also the Chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana and the Archbishop of Cape Coast, a town in Western Ghana. He was ordained priest on July 20, 1975; appointed Archbishop on November 21, 1992 and consecrated on March 27, 1993.
Cardinal Turkson astutely believes God has a time-table for him. Recalling that his rise within the Catholic hierarchy has been phenomenal, he said whilst working on his doctorate degree in 1992, the Pope named him as the Archbishop of Cape Coast. Four years later, though being one of the youngest bishops, his fellow bishops elected him as president of the bishops conference.
Cardinal Turkson is a member of several Vatican bodies: the Methodist Catholic Dialogue (since 1997), Pontifical Council for Christian Unity (since 2002) and Pontifical Commission for Cultural Patrimony of the Church (since 2002). He is the Treasurer of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), which is the continental body of bishops conferences in Africa. Apart from English and his native Fante, he also speaks French, Italian German and Hebrew fluently.
I believe my elevation is in recognition of the sacrifices of all Catholics and what they and other believers in the country are doing to make God s kingdom present in our land and in our world, says Turkson.
With Cardinal Turkson s elevation, Ghana can now count her contribution to humanity as her growing list of international public and civil servants, among whom include, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, continue to soar.
And on a visit to President Kufuor upon his arrival back home, the President commended Cardinal Turkson for his modesty and humility that culminated in his elevation. I believe it is your modesty and humility that must have captured the eye of Pope John Paul II to elevate you to this high position in the Church, Kufuor stated.
Cardinal Turkson s appointment has also raised the prospect of an African succeeding the present Pope, although the one who stands out clearly in this instance could be the Nigerian, Cardinal Francis Arinze. Cardinal Arinze, 69, who is seen as a conservative figure, leads four of the Vatican s congregations, three pontifical councils and two committees.
The issue of an African Pope became more realistic recently after a powerful cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger said that it would be a wonderful sign for all Christianity to have an African as Pope. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican s doctrinal chief, said an African papacy could be beneficial to the church.
The Cardinal, who is 74, is viewed as a possible king-maker in the conclave that will eventually choose the Pope s successor. The Bavarian-born prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the German newspaper Die Welt recently that the Church s African leaders had all the qualities required for the papacy.
They are absolutely up to the level of such a position, he said. As a result, it was entirely plausible that the next Pope may come from there, says Cardinal Ratzinger. Yet he acknowledges that racism could prevent an African succession and that there were still great misgivings in the West about the Third World .
Cardinal Ratzinger is possibly the most powerful figure in the College of Cardinals. His conservative politics go well with those of most of his African colleagues.
There are 224 living Roman Catholic cardinals, with 179 of them appointed by Pope John Paul II. Of the 135 cardinals who are under 80 and thus eligible to vote in the next consistory, all but five have been appointed by John Paul. This was the final note in a week of pomp and circumstance celebrating the 25th anniversary of John Paul's pontificate.
The pope s newest choices, representing diverse cultures reflect the new reality of the global Roman Catholic Church. Two-thirds of the world s Catholic population lives in the developing world.
The great majority of practising Catholics live in the developing world and an African papacy seems logical because the Catholic population in the continent has grown by 20 times since 1980.
For Ghanaians in particular, the appointment of their compatriot to the papacy ladder and the pope s support for diversity, clearly imbues them with a new sense of direction in the church and a new hope for the future.