Cardinal Peter Turkson visited Ohio State on Monday evening to speak alongside University President Michael Drake about global sustainability and Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical from earlier this year. The event took place at the Mershon Auditorium with an audience of more than 1,000 people.
Turkson is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a prominent environmental adviser to the pope. He led the drafting process of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment titled “Laudato Si’,” which translates to “Praise be to You.” The encyclical letter highlights the importance of the discussion about protecting the environment, and calls for urgent action toward sustainability, both socially and ecologically.
“(Pope Francis’) vision is what we should all be concerned about: what kind of world we want to leave to our children and those coming after us,” Turkson said during a media interview.
Turkson became the first cardinal from Ghana in 2003, and he advocates actively for the protection of the environment, not only for its own sake, but as an issue of social justice.
“So the solution the holy father proposes is a solution not limited only to politicians to business people to economists, but to everybody,” Turkson said. “Everybody has a role to play. Age does not disqualify anybody from contributing towards the solution to this.”
Drake introduced Turkson during the event.
“Known for his human touch, Cardinal Turkson speaks more than six languages, as well as understanding Latin and Greek, just in case,” he said.
The cardinal gave a short speech about his life of service, his work at the Vatican, and the goals of Pope Francis in confronting the issues of climate change and global sustainability.
“(The encyclical) invites us all to show common concern and care, for the one thing that we all share, our common globe,” Turkson said about the papal encyclical. “Therefore, the main purpose of the encyclical is ‘care for creation.’”
After the speech, the cardinal sat down with Drake for a “fireside chat” conducted by Bruce McPheron, vice president of agricultural administration at OSU and dean of the College for Food, Agricultural and Environmental Services. McPheron asked them both about the importance of confronting environmental degradation, about their personal experiences with the issue and about their plans for the future.
Drake recounted an anecdote about a trip through the redwood forests and what he gained from the experience.
“The concept of being able to work hard, to make sure that those perfect places and that perfect harmony can continue to exist I think is something that is really, really important for us to do,” Drake said. “I just think that’s a critical focus for us as leaders in society — in the scientific community, in the faith-based community, in the political community, and in the social community all around.”
McPheron, too, shared his thoughts on sustainability during a short speech.
“Sustainability permeates this campus — from our buildings to our athletics, from our research and creative accomplishments to our curriculum,” McPheron said. “There’s more that we can do to ensure that we’re engaged as an institution.”