US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A pope for peace and justice? Cardinal Turkson a popular, yet unlikely, papal candidate

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

With everyone from the New York Times to Stephen Colbert (complete with Papal Speculatron 7500) trying to figure out who will be the next pope, it is only natural that people at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would join in the fun. This morning, on day three of the USCCB's Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, I was fortunate enough to sit at a breakfast table surrounded by a few bishops' conference staffers. And despite the many interesting topics of conversation going on at the gathering, everyone wanted to talk papal picks.

Of course, no one really knew anything beyond the general speculation going around. Cardinal Angelo Scola sounds like a safe bet. Cardinal Marc Ouellet has long been talked about as a successor to Benedict and is just as often dismissed for being a Canadian (though it is still much more likely for him to become pope than anyone born on American soil). But gossip and speculation aside, who would people working toward peace and social justice want to see get the nod from the conclave? That one is easy: Cardinal Peter Turkson.

If you keep tabs on the church's statements about justice and peace, you've likely heard Turkson's name before. Turkson, from Ghana, has served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since being appointed by Pope Benedict in 2009. He hasn't been afraid to speak up on important issues and has already been labelled by some as the "potential first black pope"--even long before Benedict announced his plans to step down. 

He remains a longshot, but it is still fun to imagine how a Turkson papacy would change the church. If you want to read up on him just in case he becomes a surprise choice of the conclave, be sure to check out the interview we did with him in the August 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic. (And even if he's not chosen, the interview is still worth a read.)

What do you think? Would Turkson be an ideal pick, or is someone else atop your own papal wishlist?

Flickr photo cc by Catholic Church (England and Wales)