Vatican insiders: Reports of Cardinal Peter Turkson's resignation 'credible'

5525877393_fbe0c67a63_k.jpg Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in London, England, on March 14, 2011. Credit: Mazur/

Cardinal Peter Turkson's tenure as prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development may be coming to an end.

Various Vatican sources told CNA that a recent report by a traditionalist blog claiming that Turkson was set to resign is "credible."

Turkson has been the first prefect of the dicastery since Aug. 31, 2016. His five-year term mandate expired in September, so it was taken for granted he would be confirmed for a second mandate. As an unwritten rule, the prefects are confirmed with a sort of “silent consensus," and no communication is given of the renewal of their mandate.

However, Cardinal Turkson has a long-term career in the Curia. Before taking over the position of Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, he served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, beginning in 2009. He is, therefore, on his third term in the Curia. 

According to the draft reform of the Curia, some top positions may carry a maximum of two, five-year terms.

Although Turkson's term is formally expiring, the blog report was that he planned to resign.

On Dec. 12, the Cardinal reportedly had a Christmas meeting with the staff of the dicastery, but he did not want to comment on that report, saying he would only speak when plans are official.

The news of the possible resignation comes at what seems to be the eve of the finalization of the reform of the Curia, and just a few months after Pope Francis had ordered an inspection in the dicastery. 

Cardinal Blaise Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, led the inspection, as the head of a team made up of Sister Helen Alford and Pier Francesco Pinelli. Alford, a Dominican, is vice-rector of the Pontifical Angelicum University, an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and consultant of the dicastery. Pinelli has worked as a consultant with the companies Bain and Company and Netplan Management Consulting, and has been rumored to be involved in restructuring plans for the dicastery.

In a surprise move coming just weeks after the inspection, on Aug. 26, Father Augusto Zampini resigned as adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. A rising star of the dicastery and an active member and promoter of the Vatican's COVID-19 commission, the Argentine priest returned to diocesan work without an explanation for his departure.

Other Vatican sources told CNA that a house cleaning of the dicasteries' top ranks was in the offing due to internal governance problems.

After Zampini's resignation and the end of the mandate of Father Bruno Maria Duffé, who had served as first secretary of the dicastery and who had turned 70, Sister Alessandra Smerilli was appointed secretary, while Monsignor Segundo Tejado Munoz and Father Nicola Riccardi remained as undersecretaries.

In addition, the dicastery includes the Migrants and Refugees Section, led symbolically by the pope himself and with two undersecrateries: Cardinal Michael Czerny and Father Fabio Baggio.

The dicastery was established in 2016, while its statutes were approved in 2017, for a five-year period and ad experimentum.

According to a source familiar with Turkson’s dicastery, one of the frontrunners as possible successor is Cardinal Francesco Montenegro. A retired archbishop of Agrigento, Pope Francis asked him to move to Rome but still has not given him any position. The pope got acquainted with him during his first trip in 2013 to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in 2013, the first Italian shore for many migrants coming from Africa. 

The news of Turkson's possible resignation also comes just ahead of a decisive week for the reform of the Curia. For the first time, the Council of Cardinals — which met from Dec. 13 through Dec. 15 — reportedly did not revise the text of the “Praedicate Evangelium,” the Apostolic Constitution in the making that will reform the Roman Curia. 

The fact that the Council's final press release did not refer to the reform suggests for some that the text is probably finalized. Pope Francis could announce it Dec. 23, when there will be the traditional meeting for Christmas greetings with the Curia.

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