Peter Turkson was born in the village of Nsuta-Wassaw in western Ghana in 1948. He grew up in a two-room cabin with nine brothers and sisters. The community remembers he was a lively boy who played guitar. Son of a Catholic carpenter father and Methodist mother, one of his uncles was a Muslim. When he was 13, he chose to enter St. Teresa’s Seminary in the village of Amisano.
Turkson distinguished himself to the point where he was sent to study philosophy and theology in New York State, at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, and at the University of Albany.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1975, later returning to Ghana to teach at St. Teresa’s.
Father Odartey-Lamptey at the seminary said Turkson was exceptional for his humility and his eloquence: “All of us as young priests and seminarists wanted to hear him often times that he preached.”
Turkson was appointed Archbishop of the former colonial capital of Ghana Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II. He swiftly became a prominent voice for Catholicism in Africa, expressing conservative views.
John Paul made Turkson a Cardinal in 2003, the first of his country. He took part in the papal conclave of 2005 which elected Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2009, Benedict appointed Turkson president of the Vatican’s pontifical council for justice and peace. However, the 64-year-old drew criticism recently when he described homosexuality as prevalently Western and confounded it with paedophilia – also when he linked Islamic influences in a Catholic Europe with declining births.
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