By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI named Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, and the first cardinal of that country, as the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, announced the appointment Saturday at the concluding press conference of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
The announcement seemed to be a surprise for Cardinal Turkson, who was at a loss for words for a few moments. He broke the silence by expressing his gratitude to the Pope.
The Pope announced later at a lunch for the members of the Africa synod that the cardinal had accepted the nomination.
Cardinal Turkson, 61, will succeed Cardinal Renato Martino, who will turn 77 on Nov. 23.
Cardinal Martino served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2002. From 2006 to Feb. 28, 2009, he was also president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
The Italian cardinal served from 1986-2002 as the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York.
Born on Monday
Cardinal Turkson, who served as relator-general of the Africa synod, was born in 1948 in Wassaw Nsuta, Ghana. He is the fourth of 10 children.
During a meeting with a small group of journalists, held last week at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (Latin for St. Martha’s House), the cardinal explained that his first name — Kodwo (Monday) — comes from a tradition in his culture to name the child after the day of the week he was born.
The cardinal was born on a Monday. “In my family there are two ‘Fridays’ and three ‘Sundays,'” he noted with a smile. He is the only one, however, named Kodwo.
The cardinal added that in Ghana, to avoid confusion, a second name is added. His is Appiah. Peter is his baptismal name.
Cardinal Turkson, considered one of the top Biblical scholars in Africa, completed his theology studies at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York.
He was ordained for the Diocese of Cape Coast in 1975, and later earned a doctorate in sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
From 1981-1987 he was a professor of sacred Scripture and vice rector of St. Peter’s Major Seminary of Ghana, and a professor at the University of Cape Coast.
He was appointed archbishop of Cape Coast in 1992 at the age of 44. He was elevated to cardinal in 2003.[Adapted by Karna Swanson]