VATICAN CITY, February 12, 2013 ( – In the wake of the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Peter Turkson’s name is being mentioned as among the top five papabili – that is, those who are most likely to be elected the next pope.

But who is Cardinal Turkson? In a never-before aired interview with about Pope Benedict’s insistence that “openness to life is at the centre of true development,” Cardinal Turkson gives a glimpse into his early life as one of 10 children, and shared his belief that large families are a blessing.

Born in the Republic of Ghana in West Africa, Cardinal Turkson, the head of the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is one of the highest-ranking prelates in the Vatican.

In the interview taped October 29, 2012, Cardinal Turkson was adamant that despite being raised with nine siblings in a two-bedroom house with no car, neither he nor his brothers and sisters considered themselves to be poor. 

The cardinal, appointed to head the Pontifical Council by Pope Benedict in 2003, noted that his family was “by no means the biggest,” recalling friends who came from families of eleven, twelve and more children.

Neither of his parents went into higher education, he recalled. “My father wasn’t a particularly rich person,” he said, “he was a carpenter in a mining firm.  My mother traded in vegetables.”

“So, you can just imagine, probably, the income was very meager, but they took good care of all of us.  All of us went to school, secondary school.” 

The secret to success at large families, he says, “is service – parents who are ready to sacrifice a lot.” 

I think I speak for all of us, we never felt, we never considered ourselves poor.

We didn’t have a mansion to live in – ten children… my parents had a room, and the children, we also had one room, big enough, but, that’s what we shared.  Later on, we got a third room.” 

We were okay, you know, school and study and everything, we did our homework, did everything that we needed to do to excel in class.

Every year, we would all look forward to Christmas, as a time of the year when we would get new clothes, get new shoes. 

Sure it was only “once a year,” he explained, “but we knew that once a year, at Christmas, we would get new clothes, new shoes and all of that.“

He said again, “We got breakfast, we got lunch when we came back from school, we got supper.  We didn’t feel poor.”

“Naturally, my father didn’t have a car,” said Cardinal Turkson who grew up in the 1950s, adding that “but that wasn’t a big deal” back then. “We grew up happy, (the) ten of us.” 

The Cardinal attributed the happiness of his upbringing amidst the challenges to the sacrifice of his parents. “The thing I would emphasize would be the great life of sacrifice of our parents,” he said. “They must have sacrificed a lot, denied themselves a lot, to have the ten of us all come up and go to school and, each one pursue a profession or vocation of his choice.” 

Cardinal Turkson concluded: “That’s why – that’s why I never, never believe that big families are always a problem.  I cannot relate to that.”