In Rome: A rising star

This is the first installment of a series of who’s who in the Vatican, a series that will very likely appear quite irregularly. In it, I take a look at the men – and women – in Rome, who work to guide and shepherd the Church all over the world.

He is considered one of the rising stars in Rome and inevitably plays his part in the guessing game called ‘who will be the first African pope in modern times?’. He is Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, 61 years old, born in Ghana, where he was ordained a priest in 1975. In 1992 he was appointed as Archbishop of Cape Coast and in the consistory of 2003, the last one convened by Pope John Paul II, he received the red cardinal’s hat. He left Ghana last year to become prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which works to promote justice and peace in the world, “in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church”(Apostolic Constitution Pastor  Bonus, art. 142). He also has a link to the Netherlands, since in 1994 he was one of the co-consecrators of Bishop Tiny Muskens, the previous bishop of Breda.

Cardinal Turkson’s appointment as prefect came after he had chaired the three-week Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. During the preparation of that assembly he obviously made a good impression in Rome.

Considering both his function and his background, it is no surprise that Cardinal Turkson remains deeply involved with the Church in Africa. Only last week, he travelled to a village in Nigeria, to offer Mass for the victims of bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians earlier this month*.

Like Francis Cardinal Arinze before him, Cardinal Turkson is considered in many circles to be a very good candidate for the first modern African pope. Of course, a pope is not, or at least should not, be chosen simply for his place of origin, but in general it is not illogical to expect a pope with African (or Asian or South American) roots. These are the places where the Church is young and full of growth. As the  faithful increase there and decrease in Europe, the chances of influential Church leaders from those areas grows equally. For now, though, Africa still has the numbers against it. Out of the 182 Cardinals, only 13 hail from Africa. But still, in 1978, the Cardinal elected an outsider to the Chair of St. Peter…

Cardinal Turkson is young (for a cardinal, clearly) and unafraid to live his faith. These are the men the Church needs, and the Holy Spirit provides and inspires them.

*The reason for the clashes, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos said, is not religious in nature: “The fact that the Fulani are Muslim, and the villagers are mostly Christians, is an incidental fact. The real motivation for the massacre is the alleged theft of the livestock.”  

“I am concerned about the fact that the large international press continues to present the clashes that take place in Plateau State as a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. This is not so.”


Asian options

Archbishop Okada of Tokyo

Unnamed ‘sources in Rome’ appear to know that four Asian archbishops will be among the new cardinals to be created in October, if is to be believed. The buzz for a future consistory certainly seems to be increasing and many options are still open, judging by the lack of overlap in the predictions. Well, the Church does have a fair number of archbishops…   

The four new names of possible future cardinals (cardinalibile?) are those of Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India, and Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon. Archbishops Okada, Ranjith and Menamparampil all have close ties to Rome, while Archbishop Bo distinguished himself in the aftermath of hurricane Nargil in Myanmar.    

The article further refers to the possibility of a cardinal in Pakistan as a sign of support for the Christian community there. That would then have to be Archbishop Evarist Pinto of Karachi or Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore.    

Finally, the article shares my prediction of a new cardinal in the Philippines because of the upcoming retirement of Cardinal Vidal there.

Cardinals according to John Allen

In the National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen shines his light on future cardinals. He writes and creates the following list:

• Archbishop Paolo Romeo, Palermo, Italy
• Archbishop Giuseppe Bettori, Florence, Italy
• Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Brussels, Belgium
• Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Westminster, Great Britain
• Archbishop Timothy Dolan, New York
• Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Washington, D.C.
• Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
• Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez Plaza, Toledo, Spain
• Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, Valencia, Spain
• Archbishop Juan José Asenjo Pelegrina, Seville, Spain
• Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Bangkok, Thailand
• Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kiêt, Ha Noi, Vietnam
• Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
• Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz, Warsaw, Poland
Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk, Utrecht, The Netherlands
• Archbishop Reinhard Marx, Munich and Freising, Germany

There’s also a slew of Vatican officials in a holding pattern to join the College of Cardinals, including:

• Archbishop Angelo Amato, Congregation for the Causes of Saints
• Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
• Archbishop Raymond Burke, Apostolic Signatura
• Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, Apostolic Penitentiary
• Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, Pontifical Council for Culture
• Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples
• Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
• Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls

There is not much overlap with the list I created here, although that can be said to be due to the fact that I took the next two years in consideration, while Allen focusses solely on this year. Still, Archbishop Eijk is among them, as is the new archbishop of Brussels, Msgr. Léonard, and he mentions the possibility of new cardinals in African sees, like I did when I pondered the possibility of a new cardinal from Cameroon.

Allen’s list is a very western affair, with many cardinals from Europe or North America. Traditionally, Europe is the place where important members of the curia come from, of course, so perhaps the lack of African and Asian prelates is due to the fact that the current cardinals from there are still so relatively new (elevated by Pope John Paul II) that they’re not too close to retirement yet.

I have some reservations about Allen’s list, though. Both archbishops Eijk and Léonard are new enough that they could be kept waiting a while (Léonard is not even installed as archbishop yet), and the same may be said for Archbishops Nichols, Dolan, Marx and Burke. However, we will undoubtedly see in due time, quite possibly somewhere before the end of the year.

Cardinals, a game of numbers

A flock of cardinals

I’ve been reading up a bit on the possibility for a consistory sometime this year. A consistory is a meeting of the College of Cardinals and the pope where new members are elevated to the cardinalate. The reason that one may be called this year is the relatively large number of cardinals to reach the age of 80 this and next year. Once they reach that age they can no longer participate in a conclave to elect a new pope. In 2010, 11 cardinals will turn 80 (one of them, Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto, today actually), followed by 9 more in 2011 (among them the only Dutch cardinal, Cardinal Simonis).

This’ll bring down the number of electors to 92 at the end of 2011, unless a consistory is called before that. And that seems very likely, not least because it is more than two years since the last one. The identity of the new cardinals is anyone’s guess, but perhaps an indication may be found by taking a look at where the future octogenarians are from.

Hardest hit will be New Zealand, Lebanon, Cameroon, Latvia and the Netherlands, who will lose all their electors. Who will take their place?

  • In New Zealand, the see of Wellington has usually been occupied by a cardinal, so Archbishop John Atcherley Dew could be up for elevation there.
  • In Cameroon, any of the five archbishops seems likely. The country has a short history when it comes to cardinals, but looking at the diocesan connections of current Cardinal Tumi and the time in office of the other archbishops, we may see either Simon-Victor Tonyé-Bakot of Yaoundé or Antoine Ntalou of Garoua.
  • For the Netherlands there is really only one likely candidate, and that is Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht. Recent archbishops of Utrecht have all eventually been elevated to the cardinalate, but the relatively short time in office of Archbishop Eijk may be reason to wait for a future consistory.
  • As for Latvia and Lebanon, any guess is as good as the next. Latvian Cardinal Janis Pujats is still active as archbishop of Riga and has no clear successor yet, and in Lebanon the mix of various brands of Catholicism with their respective patriarchs and bishops offers a number of options.

In Asia, the Philippines and South Korea will lose half their electors.

  • With 16 archbishops, there are numerous options in the Philippines. Cebu Archbishop Vidal will turn 80 but is still active, and he has two auxiliaries, one of whom may succeed him.
  • The same goes for South Korean Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk, who is still working as archbishop of Seoul. The country only has three archbishops, so the choices are more limited. Daegu is currently vacant, so maybe Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju will be elevated.

Canada, France and Spain will each lose one-third of their electors, and Italy and the United States a little more than one-fifth. Any guess is as good as any with this approach, due to the sheer size and Catholic population of the countries.

Why is it important to keep the number of cardinals somewhat steady? Well, perhaps to maintain a relative decent representation of the world Church. That is the reason why, over the course of the past centuries, the maximum size of the College has been increased to 120 now (which is a relatively loose limit anyway). Small Church provinces, like the Netherlands, may be represented by a single cardinal, larger countries by more. The title of cardinal – it’s not an ordination or consecration –  is also given as a sign of office: high members of the curia in Rome may be elevated, or bishops of important dioceses. In fact, the title of cardinal is not limited to bishops, although in practice it usually is. When a priest is elevated to the cardinalate, he is usually also consecrated to bishop.