Dicastery for Promoting Human Development’s Prefect visits Rockhurst

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

Cardinal Peter Turkson talks with Dr. Michael Stellern, Professor of Economics, during the Q & A section of his presentation to students, faculty and others at Rockhurst University, Jan. 17. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

KANSAS CITY — His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promotion of Integral Human Development and the first Ghanaian cardinal, visited Rockhurst University Jan. 17. That evening, he spoke on “The Plight of Refugees and Migrants in Today’s World” to more than 400 students, faculty members and interested people at the university’s Pedro Arupe Hall.

Cardinal Turkson was appointed the first prefect of the dicastery by Pope Francis, effective Jan. 1, 2017. Prior to that he served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and was one of the cardinal electors in the last two papal conclaves which elected Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. He also served as Archbishop of Cape Coast (1992-2009), President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference from (1997-2005) and Chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana (2003-present), and was appointed Cardinal-Priest of San Liborio, Rome, by Pope St. John Paul II in October 2003.

Turksen speaks English, Fante (spoken in Cape Coast, Central and parts of Western Ghana), French, Italian, German and Hebrew and understands Latin and Greek.

Pope Francis determined that in her being and all her actions, the Church is called to promote integral human development. Cardinal Turkson quoted the pope during his Power Point Presentation about his work: “This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace and care of creation. The successor of Peter, affirming these values is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him… to better meet needs of men & women they serve. Therefore, the merger of the four Dicasteries: The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum (the Pontifical Council for Human and Christian Development established in 1971 by Pope Paul VI), the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers and the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People [would] simplify structures, make them more efficient and creative.” The four Dicasteries (departments) were merged into the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development under the prefecture of Cardinal Turkson, which officially began work Jan. 1, 2017.

Cardinal Turkson said the Second Vatican Council, which occurred from Oct. 1962 – Dec. 1965, effectively opened the windows of the Vatican so those inside could see the world around them and those outside could see in. One of the Council’s main objectives was the application of the teachings and truths of Christ to modern living.

Pope Francis: “The preoccupation with the social development of humankind is a theme which the Church took up and made her principal concern from her birth. A reflection of the meaning of authentic human life in history and culture found expression already in Scriptures and in the writings of the Church Fathers, and are now taught by the Church’s Magisterium  as the Church’s Social Teachings.” 

Integral Human Development

Cardinal Turkson described human development as concern shared by everybody and in everything in the world. Development of individuals and peoples requires seeing things differently. He said that seeing things differently is what the work of the Dicastery office means to the people of today and to those who will come after us. It is a mission of the Church, a process of reform. It is a proactive process, he explained, learning to understand better, what is man and what is dignity?

The mission of the Dicastery is to promote the scientific and pastoral response of the Holy See to the questions related to:

[1] Human Dignity (Justice and Peace) Humankind is created in the image and likeness of God, and the resultant dignity is something every person holds that no one can take or bestow.

[2] Migrations & Refugees etc. In life, some fall into situations that leave them very vulnerable, including war, natural disasters, violence and illnesses. All refugees and migrants are moving, but not all for the same reasons. They all need safety and security, the universal human need.

[3] Health Care; [4] Charitable Works; [5] Care of Creation, and [6] Stella Maris (apostolate of the Sea).

Cardinal Turksen explained a number of resulting tasks of the Dicastery, following the pope’s urging to not take refuge in silence or look at things ‘from the balcony’ (from a distance).  To PROMOTE the Social Teaching of the Church in order to imbue the social, economic and political relations with the spirit of the Gospel … To STUDY and RESEARCH in the areas of justice and peace, development of peoples, human dignity and human rights, the phenomenon of migration and the exploitation of migrants, human trafficking and enslavement, imprisonment, torture, capital punishment, Peace and War issues (disarmament and arms control, armed conflicts), humanitarian law, Demography and Peoples, Family and Society, Ecology (land, water, biodiversity, etc). Healthcare and diseases, Politics and Governance, Economics and Finance, poverty and Business, Apostolate of the Sea, etc., and To encourage and to coordinate initiatives of the Episcopal (Bishop’s) Conferences, local Churches, Catholic institutions, to provide effective and appropriate assistance both material and spiritual – if necessary also by means of suitable pastoral structures – to the sick, refugees, exiles, migrants, the stateless, circus workers, nomads, people in need, other itinerant populations, victims of natural disasters…

The tasks are intended to instil four verbs in the minds and hearts of Catholics to “welcome, protect, promote (access newcomers’ skills, education, contributions and talents) and integrate” into their new land those coming from other countries seeking safety, security and a better life. However, Cardinal Turkson cautioned that Pope Francis’ invitation is to prudence in what is done.

“Prudence is doing what best serves the country in question,” he said. “How is money best spent?”

He added that governments should form, through arguments, discussions and compromises, a vision for their country. Every exercise of power should be for the common good. Social teachings can be publicly beneficial.

Political parties have manifestos, and those manifestos should not replace the national vision. The cardinal said that Pope Francis said that good politics makes for peace, helps people live in dignity. He told visiting diplomats that the Holy See has no intention of interfering in the life of states. It seeks instead to be humble listeners. Its concern is humanity.

In answer to questions posed by the audience, he spoke feelingly about the difference between migrants and refugees.

“Refugees have no safe places, no alternatives but to save their lives by leaving their homeland. Migrants want to move around, seeking a better life.”

Cardinal Turkson described the plight of the refugee as the indifference and the lack of human dignity in the way they are viewed and treated.

“The Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development works to see how we can make refugees be recognized as human beings.”


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph