By Felipe Bueno
Peter Cardinal Turkson visited Seton Hall on February 15 to discuss Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si. Cardinal Turkson was elevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul II in 2003, and was appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace by Pope Benedict XVI.
In addition to being an integral part of the last three papacies, Cardinal Turkson is considered a potential papal candidate by the college of cardinals.
“If God would wish to see a black man also as Pope, thanks be to God,” Cardinal Turkson said, according to the Daily Mail.
The lecture was attended by nearly every clergyman in the university staff, professors from every department, local religious authorities, and a multitude of students eager to learn about the encyclical from the perspective of one of the Pope’s right hand men.
After an introduction and prayer, Cardinal Turkson took the stage and posed the question, “What kind of world will we leave our children?”
As the event took place on Presidents Day, Cardinal Turkson mentioned Pope Francis’s statement on Abraham Lincoln as a guardian of liberty against slavery and a lover of the common good. The Cardinal claimed that the world faces a similar threat today as Lincoln did, now through political and material interests that lead to economic slavery and pollution.
His Eminence proposed that if we wish to change the world we live in and provide a better future for our offspring, we must also love the common good. According to Cardinal Turkson, because nature is created by God and nature itself is not separate from humanity, it is our duty as a species to love and protect the world we were gifted.
Regarding the inception of Laudato Si, Cardinal Turkson said that after a mass, Pope Francis approached him with a wish to begin writing an encyclical and asked Cardinal Turkson to gather a team. The writing process, in which the Cardinal was extremely involved, took about a year with no documentation of who in the team wrote which parts.
The Pope took many ideas from Saint Francis of Assisi’s belief that nature must be celebrated as a gift. The encyclical received sharp criticism because it did not focus on Jesus and the Pope has no authority to be writing on climate change.
Cardinal Turkson countered that Laudato Si is not an environmental encyclical but a social one, as it touches on capitalism and our throw-away consumer culture.
Cardinal Turkson was asked, “How effective do you think the encyclical has been on world politics, and on the Paris conference on climate change?”
The Cardinal smiled to himself and in a jovial tone replied, “Well, as far as its impact goes, I can say this: the President of France quoted it five times during the Paris conference.” Stating that the encyclical’s goal was to pressure people to act, Cardinal Turkson believes that it has done so.