Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson talks to the Associated Press during an interview, in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. One of Africa's brightest hopes to be the next pope, Ghanaian Cardinal Turkson, says the time is right for a pontiff from the developing world. In the background is a painting of late Pope John Paul II. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — One of Africa’s brightest hopes to be the next pope, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, says the time is right for a pontiff from the developing world, and that he’s up for the job “if it’s the will of God.”

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the day after Pope Benedict XVI announced he would soon resign, Turkson said the “young churches” of Africa and Asia have now become solid enough that they have produced “mature clergymen and prelates that are capable of exercising leadership also of this world institution.”

The church in the Third World doesn’t need a pope of its own to thrive, he said. It’s done just fine growing exponentially with European pontiffs. But Turkson said a pope from the global south, where half of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live, would “go a long way to strengthen them in their resolve.”

Turkson, 64, became Ghana’s first cardinal when he was elevated by Pope John Paul II in 2003, while he was archbishop of Cape Coast. Six years later, Benedict tapped him to head the Vatican’s peace and justice office, which tackles issues such as the global financial meltdown, armed conflicts and ethical codes for the business world.

It has earned him the unofficial role of being the social conscience of the church.

During his tenure, however, Turkson has raised eyebrows with his occasional blunt talk.

Last year, he caused a major stir during a meeting of the world’s bishops by screening an alarmist video about the inroads Islam is making in Europe and the world. He apologized, but the gaffe may have ended his hopes as a papal contender: Even Vatican Radio called the film a “4-year-old, fear-mongering presentation of statistics” that have been widely debunked.

Benedict, however, clearly thinks highly of him.

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