Cardinal Peter Turkson shares his thoughts on integral human development


Cardinal Peter Turkson: "I've always believed that in life, you don't leave anything the same way you found it ... you always have to be able to change something for the better." Photo: ARCHPRODUCTIONS

The human being is endowed with the dignity that comes from God. And promoting this dignity and helping it develop in various aspects is the task of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The Ghanaian cardinal was speaking in an interview with Mr Andre Ahchak, Director of the Archbishop’s Communications Office, on July 22. Cardinal Turkson, who heads the dicastery, was the keynote speaker at Caritas’ Social Mission Conference the previous day.

“The dignity of the human person is not given by a court of law,” said Cardinal Turkson. “It’s not given by the United Nations. It’s given by the fact that you were created in the image and likeness of God. That is the source of your dignity.”

Promoting dignity therefore means that “we discover who we are and we promote every aspect of this … materially, economically, politically, socially, religiously, transcendentally”, he said.

“That’s the business of our office – promoting integral human development.”

In response to a question on how Singapore Catholics can help promote this, he replied: “I just want to invite them to be human, to be true to their human nature, and being true to your human nature is to recognise what you are as a human being. A true sense of a human person is the ultimate guide to everything you do.”

Cardinal Turkson also shared his experiences growing up in a family of 10 siblings. “You learn to share. That’s the way you live.” His family was not as well-to-do as others and he learnt to make his own toys using the tools that his father, a carpenter, used.

“I’ve always believed that in life, you don’t leave anything the same way you found it… you always have to be able to change something for the better,” he said.

He also shared how he became a priest. The town he lived in did not have a residential priest but only visiting ones.

Seeing them sparked his interest in the priesthood.

When he was about 12, he went to the main parish about 6 km away and saw an advertisement on the priesthood. He wrote to the priest in charge who visited him and told him he was welcome to the seminary.

“In the service of God, something makes you start and then you grow,” said the cardinal. “We all in life need something small and insignificant to get us interested in something, and then we grow that interest into something that matures.”

Prior to the interview, Cardinal Turkson celebrated Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

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