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Voice for Justice

Written by Mike Thee
October 28, 2014

UPDATE (Nov. 4): Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was scheduled to speak on SU's campus Friday, Nov. 7, has had to cancel his trip in order to assist the pope and the Curia in discerning how to respond to the Ebola crisis. 

Cardinal Peter Turkson, a high-ranking Vatican official, will be on campus to deliver a lecture, "A Compassionate Church for the Poor: Called to Serve on Society's Margins," Friday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium. 

The event is being co-sponsored by the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC) and the Albers School of Business and Economics. 

A native of Ghana, Turkson was installed as Archbishop of Cape Coast in 1993 and appointed cardinal in 2003. Anyone who was busily filling out those "Pope Madness" brackets in anticipation of the 2013 papal conclave will recognize Turkson as one of the leading candidates for pope. (His full bio can be viewed here.) 

Pictured above with the pope, Turkson is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, one of 12 such councils in the Roman Curia that assist the pope in governing and overseeing the Catholic Church. The pontifical council that Turkson leads promotes justice, peace and human rights. 

"Cardinal Turkson's office has the most direct say on those issues that align with Seattle University's mission of building a more just and humane world," says Catherine Punsalan, director of ICTC. 

In his lecture, the cardinal will address a topic that the pontifical council has been particularly focused upon in recent times: how the noble vocation of business can contribute to a renewed Church sent by Christ on a mission to serve those at the margins of society. 

"A Compassionate Church for the Poor"  

Turkson's lecture is part of the ICTC's fifth annual Catholic Heritage Lectures. With the theme "The Church Pope Francis Invites us to Build," the talks take their cue from the words of Pope Francis and the direction he is setting for the church, says Punsalan. 

Earlier in the week, Jeanette Rodriguez, professor of theology and ministry, will give the first lecture in the series and be joined by panelists Ben Curtis, director of SU's Poverty Education Center, and Fr. Gary Zender, vicar for charities at the Archdiocese of Seattle. The event takes place Monday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m., in Pigott Auditorium. 

These and other events-including a study group held this summer on the economy, violence and justice-are part of ICTC's ongoing effort to "unpack what Pope Francis means when he invites us to build a 'poor church for the poor,'" says Punsalan. 

"Social justice is an important conversation we have throughout the university," Punsalan notes, "but how that's rooted in the Catholic tradition is not always something we talk about in an explicit way." The Catholic Heritage Lectures and other programs made possible through ICTC provide an important forum for those conversations, she says. 

Vocation of the business leader  

Turkson's visit to SU was set into motion in the summer of 2012 when Joe Phillips, dean of the Albers School, helped plan an international conference  on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education in Dayton, Ohio. At the conference the cardinal gave a presentation on the pontifical council's reflection titled "Vocation of the Business Leader." 

The 35-page document, which relates Catholic social teaching to the economy, impressed Phillips, and he spoke with Turkson about coming to Seattle University. That got the ball rolling on an invitation that also involved Punsalan and Pat Howell, S.J., of ICTC, and President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. 

In the meantime, inspired by "Vocation of the Business Leader," Phillips and his colleagues held a conference on the topic in fall 2013, which was jointly sponsored by Albers, Mission and Ministry, ICTC and the School of Theology and Ministry. 

Phillips expects that Turkson's campus lecture will align with the pontifical council's reflection on the economy. "It's a great tool for business schools wanting to talk about the role of business in society. It raises questions about the distribution of income and wealth, which is very important in the U.S. and in our region." 

"There should be no lack of interest in the topic," continues Phillips, adding, "It's not often that a cardinal comes to campus."