Peter Turkson not shy about his wish to become first black Pope
He's the bookies' favourite to replace Pope Benedict but his conservative views won't please the Left
CARDINAL Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate who is hotly-tipped to become the next Pope, has given a candid interview about the "life-changing" responsibility of leading the Catholic Church.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the 64-year-old bookies' favourite openly admitted he has pondered the possibility of becoming the first black Pope and what it would mean for himself and his church. He concedes it "would signal a lot of [personal] change. I have been an archbishop, which involved a certain amount of leadership, and now having to do this on a world level, the dimensions expand almost infinitely."
Bookmaker William Hill was today offering odds of 7/2 on Turkson becoming Pope, making him the joint favourite with Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
Despite his surprising candour on the subject of succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, Turkson was "quick" to take a conservative line on controversial issues such as gay marriage and other "alternative lifestyles", the Telegraph says. He said the Catholic Church needed to find ways to "evangelise" or convert those who had embraced "alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues".
Turkson (pictured above in 2003 with Pope John Paul II) enjoys immense popularity in Ghana and the support of Pope Benedict – but he is not immune from controversy. He once screened a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and he infuriated health workers by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.
The US site PolicyMic points out that he doesn't rule out condoms in all circumstances, suggesting they can be "useful in the situation of a married, faithful couple where one partner is infected" with the virus.
The gay rights website Queerty branded Turkson "homophobic" today because, it claimed, he had "supported" legislation that oppressed lesbian and gays. "Should Turkson get the nod, it will be a great tragedy that the first man of colour to be named Bishop of Rome will be an inveterate bigot and ally to oppression," the website says.
But most social media commentators professed to be excited by the prospect of the Vatican appointing its first black Pope. One tweeted that the papal enclave should "release black smoke" if Turkson gets the job, rather than the traditional white plume.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour Party blogger Dan Hodges suggests that Turkson's election would be the liberal establishment's "worst nightmare". It would "mess with Left-wingers' heads" if a "Ghanian becomes the most influential black man on the planet, but also rejects the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV," writes Hodges.
He points out that while Turkson is a fierce critic of global capitalism and a strong advocate of banking reform - both rallying cries for the Left – he has dismissed African homophobia as "commensurate with tradition".
Hodges concludes: "The Occupy movement wouldn't know whether to adopt him or picket him."