Pope Francis has on Monday appointed Cardinal Peter Turkson as the new chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
The Ghanaian cardinal succeeds the 79-year-old Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who has led both institutions since 1998.
The pope accepted Cardinal Turkson’s resignation as prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development last December.
Cardinal Turkson served as the archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, before he was called to Rome in 2009 to be president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The 73-year-old cardinal, who speaks six languages, became the first president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in 2016 after his pontifical council was merged into the new body along with three others.
The rumours of his resignation appeared a few months after Pope Francis ordered an inspection of the dicastery, led by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that was followed by personnel changes.
Cardinal Turkson’s departure left the Vatican without no African leaders among the heads of its dicasteries for the first time since 1977.
In recent years, Bishop Sorondo’s long tenure at the pontifical academies has been marked by controversy.
In 2018, he praised China’s global leadership, saying that “at this moment, those who best realize the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”
In 2020, he defended his decision to administer the Eucharist to Argentina’s president, despite Alberto Fernández’s effort to legalise abortion in his country.
In the same year, he also defended the frequent presence of economist Jeffrey Sachs, an advocate for contraception and “reproductive justice,” at Vatican conferences.
The Buenos Aires-born bishop will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sept. 8.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences traces its roots to the Accademia dei Lincei, one of the world’s first exclusively scientific academies, founded in Rome in 1603. The short-lived academy’s members included the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Bl. Pius IX re-established the academy as the Pontifical Academy of the New Lynxes in 1847. Pius XI gave it its current name in 1936.
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. Its website says that its aim is “promoting the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law and political science, thus offering the Church those elements which she can use in the development of her social doctrine.”
Both pontifical academies are based at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens.