The pope has appointed Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana to head the Vatican's justice and peace office, a high-profile post that cements his reputation as a possible future papal candidate.
The office is responsible for promoting the church's social teachings on justice issues, such as war, the death penalty and human rights. Turkson told reporters three weeks ago there was no reason there couldn't be a black pope, particularly after Barack Obama was elected US president.
Turkson's appointment to his new post was announced Saturday at the end of a three-week Vatican meeting on the role of the Catholic Church in Africa, which Turkson had headed. In their discussions, the 300 bishops and cardinals tackled the pressing issue of AIDS on the continent, including the question of whether married couples could use condoms if one spouse is infected.
While the Vatican has no specific policy concerning condoms and AIDS, the Catholic Church opposes the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. It advocates sexual abstinence and marital fidelity as the best way to combat the spread of HIV.