POPE Francis named 15 new cardinals yesterday, selecting them from 14 nations, including far-flung corners of the world such as Tonga, New Zealand, Cape Verde and Myanmar, to reflect the diversity of the Church and its growth in places such as Asia and Africa.
Other cardinals hail from Ethiopia, Thailand and Vietnam, with only three European nations receiving new cardinals – Portugal and Spain in addition to Italy.
Pope Francis told the faithful in St Peter’s Square that the new batch of cardinals “shows the indelible tie with the Church of Rome to churches in the world”.
Five new cardinals come from Europe, three from Asia, three from Latin America, including Mexico, and two each come from Africa and Oceania.
With his picks, the Argentine-born Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, made ever clearer that he is laying out a new vision of the church’s identity, including of its hierarchy. He looked beyond traditional metropolitan area for the “princes of the church” who will help advise him and elect his successor. He has said repeatedly that the Church must reach out to those on the margins.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said the selection “confirms that the Pope doesn’t feel tied to the traditional cardinal sees”, which reflected historic reasons in various countries.
“Instead we have various nominations of archbishops or bishops of sees in the past that wouldn’t have had a cardinal.”
The pontiff ignored another tradition: limiting to a total of 120 the number of cardinals under 80 and eligible to vote for his successor.
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Before his announcement yesterday, there were 12 “vacancies” in this category. By naming 15 new voting-age cardinals, Pope Francis went above that number.
Pope John Paul II, who put his conservative stamp on the college of cardinals, also went beyond the 120-limit.
Among Pope Francis’ picks are churchmen whose advocacy styles seem to particularly capture matters dear to his heart.
Monsignor Francesco Montenegro, a Sicilian, was at his side when Francis made his first trip a few months into his papacy. Mgr Montenegro welcomed the pontiff to Lampedusa, a tiny Sicilian island whose people have helped thousands of migrants stranded by smugglers offshore. The pontiff has repeatedly denounced human trafficking and urged more attention to people on the margins of society. He also has thundered against Mafiosi, and Mgr Montenegro’s Agrigento diocese includes towns where people have dared to rebel against Cosa Nostra.
The only native English language speaker chosen by the Pope is Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand. Summing up his own intervention at last year’s Vatican conference on controversial family issues, including gay marriage and divorced Catholics, the Most Rev Dew has said the Church must change its language to give “hope and encouragement.”
Speaking from a Vatican window to a crowd in St Peter’s Square, the Pope made another surprise announcement. He said that on 12 and 13 February he will lead a of meeting of all cardinals to “reflect on the orientations and proposals for the reform of the Roman Curia”, the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy.
Pope Francis is using his papacy to root out corruption, inefficiency and other problems in the Curia.
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