Cardinal vows Vatican focus on climate, refugees and racial equity

In an interview in Rome for “Axios on HBO,” Cardinal Peter Turkson — a close adviser to Pope Francis — told me the Catholic Church plans to be increasingly active on climate, refugees and racial equity.

Driving the news: Both Turkson and the pope plan to attend the UN Climate Summit that begins in Scotland on Nov. 1, bringing what Turkson, echoing His Holiness, calls “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.”

The cardinal himself is proof. Long considered a favorite to be the first Black pope, Turkson heads an office created by Francis, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Turkson’s remit includes climate, migrants, and victims of armed conflict, torture and natural disasters — a lot.

Pope Francis has changed church law to give more rights to women. But Turkson — like Francis — remains conservative on women becoming priests. I asked him if he personally struggles with the issue.

“Personal struggle, no,” he said. “The struggle will be there if that kind of thing became an issue of denial of rights, OK? … Not even men who are ordained consider that to be a right.”

Illustration: “Axios on HBO”

I asked Cardinal Turkson about a first in U.S. history: All three branches of government have practicing Catholics at their heads — President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and a majority of the Supreme Court justices.

“We thank God for the change … to a point that people’s faith does not constitute an obstacle to the service that they can render to a state,” he said.

Asked about the lessons of the fall of Afghanistan, Turkson said world powers need to “talk more,” suggesting they should fight less.

I asked him if that lesson had been learned. He replied: “There’s still time to learn it.”

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