As part of an unusual shake-up of an entire Vatican institution, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a famous African cardinal who was a crucial consultant on climate change and social justice.
Cardinal Peter Turkson is quitting the Vatican’s huge department, officially known as the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the Vatican said on Thursday. All of the other bosses had also expressed their desire to retire.
In 2016, the department was created by merging four agencies that dealt with problems including peace, justice, migration, and charity. Management issues and turf disputes plagued it from the outset, according to Vatican insiders.
The Vatican has not commented on the timing of Turkson’s departure or the claims of dysfunction in his department.
Turkson, seen by some as a candidate to become the first African pope in about 1,500 years, offered his resignation again last week, following an automatic procedural offer at the end of his term in August. One source said he had told some staff he was “fed up”.
Turkson, 73, from Ghana, represented the Vatican at high-profile international venues such as the World Economic Forum at Davos.
His departure leaves the Vatican with no African heading a major department, following the retirement of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea earlier this year.
A senior Vatican source said the pope was expected to give Turkson another top Vatican job.
The department underwent an external review headed by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago at the pope’s request earlier this year.
The shake-up follows two high-level departures from the department over the summer, one because of retirement and another sudden and unexplained.
Turkson will be eligible until he turns 80 to enter a conclave of cardinals to elect the next pope after Francis dies or retires, according to Church rules.
The Catholic Church had several popes of north African origin early in its history, the last in the 5th century.
The Vatican said the department would be run on an interim basis by Cardinal Michael Czerny, an immigration specialist, and Sister Alessandra Smerilli, an economist.
Both were already members of the department.