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Cardinal Turkson visits Dubuque parish

Celebrates Mass; gives talk on pope’s latest encyclical

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

DUBUQUE — Cardinal Peter Kodwa Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace, recently gave attentive listeners at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Dubuque a first-hand account of the creative process behind Pope Francis’ latest encyclical — “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”

“The central question (Pope Francis) put is what kind of world do we want to leave for our children and the people who come after us?” the cardinal told the audience of several hundred March 18. “We cannot profess love for God when we have no love for what God has made.”

The world-famous church leader visited the parish March 18 at the personal invitation of Father Gabriel Anderson, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker and St. Columbkille, and Father Hilary Aidoo, who serves as sacramental priest at the two linked parishes. After a brief one-on-one conversation with the pope about the possibility of writing something on human and natural ecology, the native of Ghana got the green-light to start working after a second informal encounter on Palm Sunday 2014 in St. Peter’s Square. “Pope Francis didn’t want a meeting,” recalled the cardinal. “He gave us the freedom then to be creative on this topic, so that this would enrich his own thinking.”

The cardinal, who previously served as archbishop of the Cape Coast Archdiocese in Africa and was appointed to the council in Rome in 2009, was one of a team of eight people who collaborated to produce the first draft of the encyclical. The document was then given to Pope Francis for review.

“We submitted it in July 2014,” explained Cardinal Turkson. “(Pope Francis) published it on June 18, 2015. The title ‘Care for Our Common Home’ was part of the title from day one. What the pope did was enhance this with ‘Laudato Si’’ from the prayer of St. Francis.”

The phrase, which comes from medieval Italian, means “Praise Be to You,” referring to God. Cardinal Turkson has visited Iowa before in 2013, when he spoke at the ceremony for the World Food Prize in Des Moines. He came to Dubuque, in part, due to a connection with Father Aidoo, who served as his financial administrator when the cardinal was an archbishop in Ghana. Father Aidoo concelebrated Mass along with the cardinal, Father Anderson, and three other priests from Ghana currently serving in the archdiocese.

The Eucharist was celebrated in the early evening after the cardinal visited students at St. Columbkille parish school and ate at a Lenten fish fry in St. Joseph’s Church Hall. In his homily, the cardinal discussed how St. Joseph, whose feast day was celebrated the next day, was a guardian to Jesus and a steward of what God had given him. His talk on the encyclical was given after Mass and lasted about 30 minutes.

“(The talk was) straight to the point and it brings home the meaning behind the encyclical — how we can leave the earth, not destroy it, for future generations,” said Father Aidoo afterwards.

In his remarks, Cardinal Turkson broke down the encyclical using seven “Cs” that made it easy to understand. The first was literally “to see, evaluate and act.” For the second “C,” the cardinal discussed “continuity” — how other popes previously tackled ecology in earlier documents, such as during the industrial revolution. St. Pope John Paul II addressed “natural and human ecology.”

Pope Francis is focusing on “integral ecology,” according to the cardinal, which is an effort to bridge the two types. The third “C” the cardinal mentioned was congeniality. Whereas it is common for popes to quote other popes in encyclicals, Pope Francis didn’t do that — preferring to reference bishops and bishops’ conferences. “It was as if the pope was saying, ‘I’m teaching this with other bishops around the world,’” reflected the cardinal. The fourth “C” — conversation, alluded to the parts of the document where the pope calls for dialogue.

“The pope is saying we are in an urgent situation to which (he gives) an urgent appeal, trusting in the ability of the human family to change,” said Cardinal Turkson. “The pope addresses the whole world. He says our global home is at risk.”

The fifth “C,” care, referred to how people can find solutions to environmental problems; the sixth— “conversion” — covered the parts of the encyclical where the pope calls for people to change their lives spiritually and practically. In the spiritual realm, the cardinal said the focus on ecology helps gets people thinking about God’s natural law — which can provide a link to human morality as well as nature.

The conversion also refers to ecological citizenship.

“The crucial feature of ecological citizenship is intergenerational solidarity — a sense of duty to the next generation,” he said. The final “C” refered to “contemplation.”

Cardinal Turkson explained that prayer is key to caring for the earth. He also said the encyclical warns about the danger of making nature into a “goddess.”

“This encyclical is calling for respect for creation, but not to deify creation,” said Cardinal Turkson. “To contemplate God is to contemplate what God has made.”

Many who attended the events said they walked away with a deeper understanding of the pope’s message. “I just finished reading ‘Laudato Si’,’” said Karen Zeckser, a parishioner at St. Joseph the Worker. “I thought his seven points of ‘Cs’ was a nice way to address it. I felt (the encyclical) was really relevant to my life.”

Photos: Cardinal Turkson distributes the Eucharist to Alice Noethe, pastoral associate at St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque March 18 at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Church, also in Dubuque. (Photo by Dan Russo/TheWitness)