Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson has suggested that Pope Francis and his encyclical intend to promote the nobility of business - as Pope Francis has recognized in the past - and to warn against times when the desire for excessive gain beclouds the noble vision of business.
In a wide-ranging interview with ZENIT in Rome, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace discusses his hopes for Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology and responds to the strong reactions it has generated, particularly in certain business and economic circles.
The 184-page widely-anticipated document ‘Laudato Si’: on the Care for Our Common Home,’ was presented in a press conference on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall. It addresses the contentious subject of climate change in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Speaking to ZENIT, the Cardinal spoke on how this is an ‘Encyclical of Collegiality’ and how it represents and is intended for all people.
Moreover, Cardinal Turkson, whose Dicastery was charged with producing the first draft of the encyclical has discussed the relationship between faith and science, and how having a Pope that so obviously ‘talks the talk and walks the walk,’ could help in finally convincing society that the Church respects science and the fruit of its researches.
Along with Cardinal Turkson, the speakers at the press conference to present ‘Laudato Si’ last Thursday included the Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamo, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church; Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who represented natural sciences; Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services, representing economic, financial, business and commercial sectors, whose responses to the major environmental challenges - as Cardinal Turkson stated - are "so crucial."
ZENIT: Your Eminence, Would you say you are pleased with the outcome of the encyclical? What are your hopes for what it will achieve?
Cardinal Turkson: Yes, I am satisfied. Well, it was truly a long-awaited document with high expectations. There was a 'hunger’ for its message. So given this, we felt compelled to respond to this hunger and eagerness due to situations in the world. I have no reason not to be happy. The world needs credible leadership on the subject. I congratulated the Holy Father for it and for all the perseverance it required for it to reach its final stage. In fact, I am very positive about it. Its content is positive. It is very concrete and extensive. It does not go soft-paw around issues. It also tasked the Dicastery well, which before its release held various pre-release activities to prepare local prelates for its publication.
Local bishops’ conferences are to celebrate the content of the encyclical. It invites all to exercise a role: everybody.
ZENIT: The Holy Father makes some pretty strong statements on business and the markets and some are not pleased with this treatment. Would you like to respond to this interpretation?
Cardinal Turkson: How do I formulate a short response to something that requires a long explanation? Nothing really in this Encyclical is new. The local Episcopal conferences are on board. Pope Francis is not attacking the market, business or anything. In fact, in his 2014 letter for the World Economic Forum at Davos [Pope’s Letter to the Executive Chairman of The World Economic Forum on the Occasion of the Annual Meeting at Davos-Klosters (Switzerland)], Francis called and recognized business as being a ‘noble vocation.’ He expressed appreciation for talents. And third, he invited business people to put their talents at the service of the poor. When you look at these three aspects, one certainly does not see an attack by the Pope. It is rather an appreciation and admiration for the career along with an invitation to use it and what the career brings along or generates not for personal benefit and gain, but for the poor, the common good.
Basic scripture comes to mind here. God entrusted the gift of labour to mankind as a vocation. As such work involves cooperating with God and continuing His work of creation.
What the Pope, I believe, is saying is that the noble profession of business can get distorted. It doesn’t remain in its intended, pure form, but rather gets deformed somehow. It has a tendency to be beset by a desire for gain, and suffer ethical shortcomings, etc. This causes business to lose its nobility. It does not live up to its glorious aim. So Pope Francis is drawing attention to situations in which greed beclouds the vision of human beings, distorting the sense of the noble vocation of human work and enterprise.
What I would say - and I am not saying the Pope would say it exactly in the same way - is that Pope Francis is addressing the world of business under the influence of sin, or under human weakness. It is not to bash, but to invite humanity to realize this and take responsibility. It is to point out that we can’t do it alone, but that we need the grace of God. An example of this is in Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate where Pope Benedict observes that globalization makes us neighbours and not brothers. This later requires the grace of God. Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth") is the third and last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, and his first social encyclical. It was signed on June 29, 2009, and was published on July 7, 2009. It is concerned with the problems of global development and progress towards the common good, arguing that both love and truth are essential elements of an effective response. There are specific points aimed at political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, financiers and aid agencies, but the work as a whole is also addressed to all people of good will.
ZENIT: Many observe how Pope Francis has made the Church more ‘acceptable’ to society. Do you think he will finally manage to convince the world how the Church completely respects scientific truth?
Cardinal Turkson: Well, it is worth acknowledging that the relationship between science and religion has always been a debated issue. Some see a dichotomy because their methods are different. But the bottom line is that rather than focusing on how the methodologies or how the study is different, one needs to focus on the common subject of both, which is the same: the human person. When one reflects on this, one realizes how short-sighted it is to limit the study of the human person to just an aspect of his existence, be it bodily or spiritual. As a human person man is not just a body or action, but there is also a soul, and there is no contradiction between science and faith. They support each other.
In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI calls for a dialogue between faith and reason, all kinds of reason: scientific, financial, economic, all types… He explains that reason can develop ‘blind spots,’ which need religion or faith to help discover. But faith also requires reason to make it concrete. The Church thus encourages a dialogue between faith and reason, two endowments of the human person in search of the truth, not one to the exclusion of the other, but a relationship between them. After all, a person has both faith and reason.
Therefore, as far as Pope Francis is concerned or talking about the Pope Francis factor in the Church, we are invited to recognize in him an influential, credible normal voice. Pope Francis is perceived as the one who ‘walks the walk and talks the talk.’ He speaks his mind. People appreciate his genuineness. In our dicastery, we see this in the letters from diverse groups of people, not only do we hear praise from Christians, but from Muslims too.
The encyclical itself - from its composition - makes it evident how all people are invited to be involved. When one pays attention to how many times Pope Francis quotes local bishops—“At the bishops’ conference of this African country, of India, of Korea, they said ….” It makes it obvious how all voices are being represented in the work. The encyclical is an ‘Encyclical of Collegiality.’ It is not just Pope Francis’ teaching but all the bishops around the world.
ZENIT: How can this encyclical have an effect on Christians in their everyday lives?
Cardinal Turkson: It is for everybody, all according to their vocation. The document in a special way can help each person - in a personal way - realize their role in helping the planet. It can remind them to watch their lifestyle and habits to be coherent with their hope for the future of the world. When they eat and there is a bag, they can think out the right place to discard it. Or, maybe they take a bike instead of a car or vehicle of some kind…Saving electricity. These are some examples of those trying different options to help save our God-given planet.
Deborah Castellano Lubov (www.zenit.org)