At the Vatican, one of the cardinals being talked about as a possible leader of the Roman Catholic Church says the election of a new pope is a spiritual, not a political, process.
In an interview with VOA, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana says the selection of a pope is a sacred process that requires prayers and god’s guidance.
But Cardinal Turkson, who is currently president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, says it is natural for Africans to want one of their own to be elected as the next pope.
“It’s very normal for people in any part of the world to gang behind somebody that they can associate with and they can feel part of. So, this for me is a natural phenomenon just as guys in Latin America are doing the same thing for cardinals from Latin America,” said Turkson.
“This is essentially an exercise of the Catholic Church,” he adds. “Therefore before we start going continental, we need first to go church, and think about what the Catholic Church in Africa can do or should do with such an event. When that is the case, then what we [are] heading for is the Catholic Church in Africa in communion with the Catholic Church around the world choosing a chief pastor, somebody to exercise leadership over the whole church,” he said.
Cardinal Turkson has been mentioned as one of the leading candidates ahead of the upcoming conclave of cardinals to elect a new pope to lead the over 1 billion Catholics worldwide. If chosen, he would be the first non-European to head the church in 1,800 years.
The Ghanaian cardinal’s comments came after Pope Benedict announced that he would step down from the papacy at the end of the month.
Turkson says he respects the rights of the media to talk about the church activities, but cautioned that speculations about him and Cardinal Francis Arinze, of Nigeria as leading candidates to become the next pope might not be accurate.
“This is speculation that the press gets into sometimes, a little bit unrealistic, because everybody knows that Cardinal Arinze has reached the age of 80 and so he does not qualify by age even to go into a conclave to elect a pope, and he cannot be chosen or elected,” said Turkson.
“So since Arinze is above the age the natural thing is to turn the attention to the one who is younger and that comes to me and several of the African cardinals. You can’t stop people from speculating and the only thing we try to do is probably to guide it a little bit,” he said.
Turkson says the Catholic Church continues to play a significant role in the lives of people in Africa. He called for support from Africans ahead of the election of the new pope.
“We ask the rest of Africa to pray with us that God will bestow on us a leader that can provide the type of leadership that will continue to make the Catholic Church responsive to the needs of the various citizens on the continent,” said Turkson.
Turkson is the first Ghanaian to become a cardinal, when he was made archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul the second in 2003. He was named head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace by Pope Benedict in October of 2009.