ROME – Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson said Tuesday his offer to resign from his prominent Vatican post is a matter of his term limit coming to an end, and he is waiting for the pope to decide whether to accept it, reject it, or reassign him.
Turkson, prefect of the Vatican department for Integral Human Development who has long been considered a close papal aide, declined Tuesday to offer clarity on the status of his pending letter of resignation, which he submitted earlier this month over apparent tensions in his department.
Asked whether he would be presenting next year’s message for peace, Turkson said it is a matter for the pope to decide.
“All assignments, all appointments in the Holy See have a 5-year term limit and when five years are up, it is expected that we place our mandate back in the hands of the Holy Father,” and wait until he either accepts the resignation, prolongs the mandate, or reassigns the person in question, he said.
Turkson noted that he has been leading a Vatican department for nearly 12 years, and that after beginning his mandate at the department for Integral Human Development in 2016, the 5-year term is now up “and you just have to wait for renewal or reassignment and that’s just what it is.”
Whatever happens, “we have to follow the procedure (and) we must wait for the Holy Father and what he wants to do,” Turkson said.
Rumors that Turkson, 73, would resign began to circulate late last week. Turkson himself confirmed that he had submitted his resignation to the pope in a Tweet Sunday, in which he said that “In Vatican mandates of Office-Heads expire at death/resignation of Pope or expiry of 5yr term of office.”
“One surrenders mandate for Pope/new Pope to renew/extend mandate or reassign. Turkson surrendered in 2013, Francis renewed 5yr mandate in 2016. Now must await new action of Pope!” the tweet reads.
January 1, 2022, will mark five years since Turkson became the first prefect of his department, and the terms for these Vatican roles are generally considered to last for five years, although there are many Vatican department heads who have been serving far beyond the traditional limit.
Turkson, widely considered a close papal allay who has played a pivotal role in carrying forward the pope’s social and political priorities, is two years shy of the mandatory retirement age for prelates, which is 75, making his possible resignation unusual.
Many observers, however, believe that Turkson’s influence in the Francis papacy has been waning of late due to internal problems in his dicastery, which merged four other Vatican offices together into a mega-department which is apparently still ironing out the wrinkles.
It is also believed that there could be tensions inside the department following Pope Francis’s decision in 2019 to name Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny and to give him charge over the Vatican office for migrants and refugees, which the pope oversees himself, while leaving him in Turkson’s department.
Having two cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, could be causing problems.
His offer of a resignation also follows a formal audit of the department this past summer which was requested by Pope Francis and conducted by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.
That inquiry was followed by the departure of two high-profile personalities in the department: French Father Bruno-Marie Duffé, formerly the secretary, or number two official, and Father Augusto Zampini, an Argentine who’d been named Adjunct Secretary in 2020.
Turkson met with Pope Francis Monday, but the Vatican press office released no details of the meeting.
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