Editors note: Due to a scheduling conflict, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson will speak on June 13, the final day of the Catholic Health Assembly.
By JULIE MINDA
The cardinal who heads the Vatican office over health care ministries will be the opening speaker for the 2017 Catholic Health Assembly. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He is among the keynote speakers scheduled to address the annual gathering, which this year takes place June 11 to 13 in New Orleans.
Cardinal Turkson has deep roots in the West African Catholic Church. He's held numerous leadership positions throughout the church and had an instrumental role in the church's recent environmental teaching and outreach. According to the National Catholic Reporter, in 2013 he was frequently mentioned among the papabili, or potential candidates for the papacy.
"He is such a leader on the world stage — he is a strong voice for the poor and vulnerable — and we are looking forward to having him speak at the assembly," said Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, CHA president and chief executive officer.
She said, "Cardinal Turkson has been one of the Holy Father's major spokespersons for the dignity of people around the world. The cardinal has advocated for the poor and vulnerable in some of the places with the most challenging conditions in the world."
The dicastery, or Vatican department, that Cardinal Turkson heads opened Jan. 1, about five months after Pope Francis announced plans to establish it. The pope said it would oversee "issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture." The pope merged four pontifical councils to form the new dicastery. Those legacy councils included offices on justice and peace, pastoral care of migrants, human and Christian development and health care workers.
Prior to his appointment to the leadership role for the dicastery, Cardinal Turkson was president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Cardinal Turkson helped to unveil — and has been a champion of — Pope Francis' May 2015 environmental encyclical letter, "Laudato Si … On Care for Our Common Home." The document calls for global dialogue that recognizes the urgency of the environmental challenges facing the planet, that addresses the disproportionate impact of climate change on the poor and that builds a commitment to decisive action to prevent further environmental degradation.
Sr. Carol said of the cardinal's efforts to advance the church's environmental work: "Cardinal Turkson looks at environmental issues from a special perspective. He focuses on the fact that environmental damage negatively impacts the poorest and most vulnerable people the most. The poor pay the biggest price, and we need to keep that perspective top of mind."
A native of Ghana, the cardinal was ordained Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Coast in West Africa in 1993 and has since held numerous top positions with religious and civic organizations in that region, including the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference; the Governing Council of the University of Ghana, Legon; the Central Region Development Commission; the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa; the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa; the Conference of Religions for Peace; and the Ghana National Peace Council.
Also keynoting the Catholic Health Assembly will be Patrick J. Kennedy, a mental health advocate, author and past member of the House of Representatives; and Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian and author.
Sr. Carol said that Cardinal Turkson's acceptance of CHA's invitation to speak at the assembly "says a lot about how seriously he takes the responsibility for the health care component of his dicastery."
Visit chausa.org/assembly for more information on the cardinal and on the assembly.
Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.