So about a month ago I wrote up a piece about one of the new Cardinals-designate, Archbishop Alberto Suárez-Inda, for the America blog. I’ve been trying to keep up with the troubles going on in Mexico, and the appointment of Suárez, who has spoken out against the violence and corruption, seemed like a very powerful statement by the Pope.
I enjoyed learning about one of the new Cardinals so much, when it was finished I thought why not try to write little pieces about all 20? I furiously began to search Google for information.
But I soon discovered that most every news outlet was just repeating the same basic facts, most of them gotten from just a few sources. Which seemed so strange—these are the new Cardinals, American press. Show a little interest.
So I wrote my editor, Kevin Clarke, and pitched the idea that I would write the 20 new Cardinals directly and offer them seven simple questions to answer about their sense of the church today, their hopes, their faith.
With America’s approval, I’ve spent the last three weeks writing friends, acquaintances and more or less complete strangers with the hope they might be able to help me make connections. (To all of them, I say thank you.)
I’ve cajoled fellow Jesuits and former Jesuits into calling Rome, Germany and Colombia for me, into translating my letters and then translating some of the Cardinals’ responses. (To them as well, I offer my deepest thanks.) Last Thursday night I made my first ever call to Mozambique, and then my second, and then my third, and then my fourth, as friends of Cardinal Langa and I tried desperately to understand each other enough to exchange email addresses. (I was such a bother. Monsignor Julio, forgive me!)
As of today, I can’t say that all twenty have answered. (Though there are some promising signs...) But we have heard from quite a few—10 of the 15 new Cardinals who are of voting age; and two of the new Cardinals over 80.
And who knows—even now, with the consistory just a few days way, there are some good signs. We might yet get close to 20.
During this week of the consistory, we’re going to post two interviews a day, and then the rest in the week following. For those who are prefer print to 1s and 0s, I will be putting together a follow-up piece with excerpts from all the interviews to be printed in the magazine itself in the next few months.
I thank all the new cardinals for their patience with my emails and for their wonderful words. Readers, I hope you’ll find their reflections as consoling as I have. They are a remarkable group of men.