It’s another Franciscan selection for the next consistory: Pope Francis has picked 17 new cardinals, 6 of whom come from countries which have never had a cardinal before. Unlike previous consistories, the majority of the new cardinals are metropolitan archbishops. There are still three bishops, one priest, one head of a curia dicastery and – for the first time since 1998- a serving Nuncio among the new batch. Only five of the new cardinals serve in Europa in North America. The rest are spread out over Africa, Asia, South America, Oceania and the Middle East. Although he apparently still felt obliged to fill some cardinalatial sees (Madrid, Chicago, Mechelen-Brussels), this is Francis making sure the College of Cardinals increasingly reflects the worldwide Church.
After the consistory on 19 November, the number of electiors who can participate in a conclave will be 121. There are 111 cardinal electors now, but Cardinals Ortega y Alamino, López Rodríguez and Antonelli will turn 80 before the 19th. Following the 80th birthday of Cardinal Sarr on 28 November the number of cardinal electors will be at the ‘official’ maximum of 120 again.
A brief overview of the new cardinals:
- Archbishop Mario Zenari, Titular Archbishop of Zuglio and Apostolic Nuncio to Syria.
- Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Metropolitan Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic.
- Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, Metropolitan Archbishop of Madrid, Spain.
- Archbishop Sérgio Da Rocha, Metropolitan Archbishop of Brasília, Brazil.
- Archbishop Blase Joseph Cupich, Metropolitan Archbishop of Chicago, United States of America
- Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, Metropolitan Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Metropolitan Archbishop of Mérida, Venezuela
- Archbishop Josef De Kesel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, Belgium.
- Bishop Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis, Mauritius.
- Bishop Kevin Joseph Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.
- Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Metropolitan Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico.
- Archbishop John Ribat, Metropolitan Archbishop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
- Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, Metropolitan Archbishop of Indianapolis, Unites States of America.
- Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez, Metropolitan Archbishop emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- Bishop Renato Corti, Bishop emeritus of Novara, Italy.
- Bishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai, Bishop emeritus of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho.
- Father Ernest Simoni, priest of the Archdiocese of Shkodrë-Pult, Albania.
Some of these choices have come about through personal encounters the Holy Father has had or the circumstances in which the cardinals-to-be have to work, circumstances which are close to Pope Francis’ heart. Archbishop Zenari remains in Syria despite the horrors of war, Archbishop Nzapalainga hosted Pope Francis during his visit to the war-torn Central African Republic, and Father Simoni moved the Pope to tears with his lifestory of imprisonment, torture and hard labour under Albania’s communist regime.
^Seen here visiting an Internally Displaced Persons camp, Cardinal-elect Dieudonné Nzalapainga is an example of “a shepherd who smells like his sheep”.
The preference for the peripheries that Pope Francis has displayed time and again should also be clear from the list of new cardinals: The Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Lesotho are not exactly major players in the Catholic world, but the selection of cardinals from these countries should perhaps not be seen as reflecting the role of the specific countries, but the parts of the world they are in, combined with the individual merits of the chosen prelates. Here we see a shift in the balance from Europe and North America to Africa, South America, southeast Asia and Oceania, parts of the world where the Church is growing or significantly stronger than in the secularised west. Parts of the world where the Church can have a hands-on role to play in the various social situations and circumstances people find themselves in: from war and terrorism to environmental challenges and increasing development and industralisation. Major change seems to be a deciding factor in the appointment of new cardinals.
In the west, then, the chosen cardinals are seen in a far more political light. What are their positions on various topics within and outside the Church? And what does that say about the positions of Pope Francis on these same issues? Some of the new cardinals, such as Archbishop Cupich, De Kesel (at right) and Tobin are considered liberal on certain inter-ecclesiastic topics, and at the same time politically inclined in the same direction as the Holy Father, especially when it comes to the question of refugees in both Europe and North America, as well as gun control in the US. In general, their appointments are befitting of this Holy Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis has proven to not be too bothered with giving red hats to traditionally cardinalatial sees. In Europe, they get them in due time (with some exceptions, especially in Italy: Turin and Venice remain decidedly without cardinals at the helm), but the story is different across the pond. Despite their large Catholic populations, sees like Los Angeles and Philadelphia remain with a cardinal, despite having had them in the past.
Pope Francis also tends to choose more religious to become cardinals. Of the seventeen new cardinals, six belong to a religous order or congregation: Archbishop Nzalapainga and Bishop Piat are Spiritans, Archbishop D’Rozario (at left) is a Holy Cross Father, Archbishop Ribat is a Sacred Heart Missionary, Archbishop Tobin is a Redemptorist and Bishop Khoarai is an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. Pope St. John Paul II sometimes appointed more religious as cardinals, but that was in his mega-consistories of 2001 and 2003 of 42 and 30 cardinals respectively.
Of the seventeen new cardinals, fourteen will be Cardinal-Priests due to their being bishops outside of Rome, and the remaining three will be Cardinal-Deacons (as they do not lead a diocese somewhere). All Cardinal-Priests receive a title church, and the Cardinal-Deacons a deaconry; a church in Rome of which they are the theoretical shepherd, thus making them a part of the clergy of Rome working with the bishop of that city. In practice, they have no influence in the running of their title church or deaconry, although their coat of arms is displayed there, and they take official possession of it some time after creation as cardinal.
While no Pope is obliged to use any of the available vacant titles and deaconries, and he is free to create new ones as he sees fit, some of these churches do stay in the family, so to speak. There are currently fourteen title churches vacant, so there is no pressing need to create new ones. Pope Francis has in the past shown to sometimes favour continuity in the granting of these titles (for example, he gave the title church he had as a cardinal, San Roberto Bellarmino, to Cardinal Mario Poli, who had succeeded him as archbishop of Buenos Aires). By that logic, we could guess that the church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola could be given to Archbishop Cupich, since it was the title church of his predecessor in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George. The other American cardinals could receive Santa Croce in Via Flaminia or Santi Giovanni e Paolo, as they were previously held by Amerian cardinals (Baum and Egan) as well.
For the three Cardinal-Deacons there is a choice of 10 vacant deaconries, so any guess is as good as the next, really.
Photo credit:  Catholic Herald,  BELGA,  Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh