The “resignation” of Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson
Over the past day, social media was inundated with news of Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson’s alleged resignation. This news, without a doubt, has bothered Catholics and even all Ghanaians and even non-Ghanaians.
But is it true that the Cardinal resigned? The straightforward answer is no, if one thinks of his resignation from the rank of cardinal. However, in providing details for the answer, let me give an example from the life of a bishop.
A diocesan bishop who has completed his 75th year is required by canon law to submit his resignation from his functions to the sovereign pontiff. Normally he does this through the Apostolic Nuncio. The term “resignation” is used in this context because there can only be one bishop at a time in a diocese.
If the bishop does not resign from his episcopal office, another bishop cannot be appointed by Rome. The resignation must therefore be accepted by the Pope. When the Pope receives the letter, he usually asks the bishop to continue caring for the diocese until a new bishop is appointed. A diocese does not become vacant when a diocesan bishop presents his resignation, but only when the sovereign pontiff accepts the resignation.
Unlike resignation in the secular world, the bishop continues to be a bishop but he will no longer be in charge of the diocese once the pope has appointed a new bishop in his place.
In addressing the question of whether Cardinal Turkson has resigned or not, brief biographical information, including the positions he has held, will help shed light on the matter.
In 2003, in his 10th year as Archbishop of Cape Coast, Pope Saint John Paul II inducted him into the College of Cardinals. At the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa in October 2009, Pope Benedict XVI, now retired, announced that he was appointing Cardinal Turkson to head the Justice and Peace office. At the time, the Cardinal served as recording secretary of the Synod.
In 2016, Pope Francis announced the creation of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, merging the former Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants and Travelers and the Ministry of Health and making the Cardinal Turkson his prefect. In the same year, Pope Francis renewed Cardinal Turkson’s mandate for a five-year term as Prefect of this dicastery.
That five-year term, I believe, expired in August of this year, and Cardinal Turkson, in accordance with Church tradition, wrote to the Pope advising him of the expiration of the five-year term. It is up to the Pope either to renew Cardinal Turkson’s mandate to continue to be the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, or to assign him to another Dicastery. Until that happens, he is still the prefect of this dicastery and is still a cardinal.
Cardinals who head the various dicasteries (departments) in the Vatican normally serve a five-year term. This mandate also expires when a pope resigns (as in the case of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013) or dies (as in the case of Pope John Paul II in 2005). In each of these three scenarios, the Cardinal will write to the Pope to give him the mandate entrusted to him to be in charge of the particular dicastery.
In Cardinal Turkson’s case, he relinquished his tenure when Pope Benedict resigned in 2013. When that happens, it is up to the Pope to renew or extend that term or reassign the cardinal to another Vatican post. Upon the expiration of his five-year term given to him in 2016, Cardinal Turkson relinquished the term given to him until he obtained a new term from the Pope.
When the media say that Cardinal Turkson has resigned, they should tell us what he resigned from! Has he resigned from being a cardinal? No, he’s still Cardinal. I have spoken with Cardinal Turkson three times since social media spoke of his “resignation” and he made it clear to me that he had not resigned from anything and that he was still Cardinal and Prefect of the dicastery for the promotion of integral human development. while waiting for his new date! I therefore ask all Ghanaians and all Catholics for that matter not to be disturbed by the so-called “resignation” of Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson.
Author: Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu
(Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong)
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