Pope Francis took many Vatican watchers by surprise on Sunday, May 20, when, after reciting the Regina Coeli and praying for peace in the Holy Land and Venezuela, he announced that he would create 14 new cardinals on June 29.
It had been expected that he would hold a consistory this year since the number of cardinal electors would have decreased from 116 to 115 on June 8 when Cardinal Amato of Italy turns 80. Given that this number would not change by reason of age for the rest of the year, it was logical for the pope to decide to hold it at the end of June. In this way, he ensures that the number of electors will remain close to the full complement of 120. With Sunday’s announcement, that number stands at 126 (125 after June 8).
This will be his fifth consistory since his election as pope on March 13, 2013, and Francis has adopted the same criteria in his choice of men to be cardinals: universality; attention to “the peripheries”; humble pastors with “the smell of the sheep”; reducing the overall number of Europeans and Italians in the electoral college; abandoning the tradition that appointment to certain sees automatically brings with it a red hat; and restricting the number of Roman Curia cardinals by reserving the red hat only for the prefects of congregations (or their equivalent).
Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor.”
By carefully choosing the new cardinals, Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble, spiritual men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor,” a church that is “a field hospital” and puts mercy at the heart of its mission. The pope wants “a missionary church” that reaches out to the various peripheries of the world, a church, devoid of clericalism, that involves the whole people of God. Francis has now chosen 59 of the 126 current electors—roughly 47 percent of the electoral college. Benedict XVI named 46 of the others, while St. John Paul II created the remaining 20.
In 1975, Paul VI set the maximum number of electors—cardinals under the age of 80 with a right to vote in a conclave—at 120. John Paul II and Benedict XVI exceeded that number at various times, and Francis has now done so for the first time.
In an interview last year, he said he hoped that by the end of his pontificate “the college of cardinals would be truly catholic.” His nominations yesterday reaffirmed that desire for universality. He added cardinals from four countries that do not have electors today, though they had in the past: Iraq, Japan, Madagascar and Pakistan.
The new electors come from Poland, Portugal, Madagascar, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Peru, Spain and Italy.
The new electors come from Poland, Portugal, Madagascar, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Peru, Spain and Italy, which received three new cardinals.
As in previous consistories, Francis again gave special attention to “the peripheries” of the church and of the world. Significantly, he placed the Iraqi-born Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako, 69, at the top of the list, to highlight the still difficult situation in that country since the U.S.-led war in 2003 and especially the plight of the tiny Catholic and Christian communities in this oil-rich, majority-Muslim country of 37 million people. Christians counted for 6 percent of the population in 2003 (around 1.5 million), but today the Christian and Catholic population is estimated to be around half that number. The patriarch is the third Iraqi cardinal in the history of Chaldean Church.
Francis is aware of the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, too, and will give a red hat to Joseph Coutts, 72, the white-bearded archbishop of Karachi, who has served in three dioceses in this majority-Muslim country of 209 million people, where Christians total 2.5 million believers, a mere 1 percent. While the Catholic Church in Pakistan and its one million members have contributed much in the fields of education and health care, they and other Christians have suffered attacks for over 15 years under the country’s infamous blasphemy law, which the new cardinal campaigned strongly against as president of the bishops’ conference (2011-17). The first Pakistani cardinal was also archbishop of Karachi—Joseph Cordeiro, who died in 1994; Archbishop Coutts is the second.
As in previous consistories, Francis again gave special attention to “the peripheries” of the church and of the world.
He also gave the cardinal’s hat to Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda, 70, the archbishop of Osaka, Japan, a predominantly Buddhist country of 127 million people where Catholics total around 950,000, of whom less than half (450,000) are native Japanese; the rest are migrants, mainly from the Philippines. The new cardinal, who is vice president of the bishops’ conference and a poet, was born in Nagasaki four years after the United States dropped the atomic bomb there and has been active in the peace movement as a bishop. He has also worked with people with disabilities and in education. He is the sixth Japanese cardinal.
Pope Francis decided to name as cardinal Desiré Tsarahazana, 63, the archbishop of Toamasina in Madagascar, which is not the principal archdiocese in this country where a quarter of the population is Catholic, about four million faithful. He is the fourth cardinal in the history of this island that lies in the western Indian Ocean, about 266 miles off the east coast of South Africa.
His decision to give the red hat to Giuseppe Petrocchi, 69, archbishop of the Italian city of L’Aquila follows the same logic. The 70,000 inhabitants of this city and many more in the surrounding area suffered greatly from earthquakes in 2009 and are still suffering its disastrous consequences. Francis wanted to show his ongoing concern for them and so will create yet another cardinal “with the smell of the sheep,” who has done great work trying to help this stricken community.
Francis has sought through his consistories to reduce the number of Europeans and Italians among the electors.
Since becoming pope, Francis has sought through his consistories to reduce the number of Europeans and Italians among the electors as they were vastly overrepresented at the previous three conclaves, where Europeans counted for over 50 percent of the electors, and more than half of them were Italian. While he has given six red hats to Europeans this time (three of them to Italians), this does not substantially alter his fundamental rationale.
If a conclave were to be held today, Europe would have 55 electors (including 22 Italians), North America 17 (Canada three, Mexico four, the United States 10), Latin America 18, Africa 16, Asia 16 and Oceania four.
One can see the shift that has taken place in the composition of the electoral college if one compares these new figures to those of the 2013 conclave where Europe had 60 electors (including 28 Italians), North America 17 (Canada three, Mexico three, the United States 11), Latin America 16, Africa 11, Asia 10 and Oceania one.
Francis has abandoned the tradition that an appointment to certain high-profile sees automatically brought the red hat.
In choosing new cardinals, Francis has abandoned the tradition that an appointment to certain high-profile sees automatically brought the red hat. Thus, in Italy, for example, he has not given the red hat to the archbishops of Venice, Turin or Bologna or, in the United States, to Baltimore, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. It was perhaps significant this time that he did not give the red hat to the new archbishops of Milan (the largest diocese in Europe), Paris or Krakow; the reason seems to be that in these cases their predecessors are still electors.
He did, however, give the red hat to the new vicar-general of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, 64, whom he chose, while still a priest in the Rome diocese, to give the retreat to the Roman Curia in 2014 and more recently to present his exhortation on the universal call to holiness.
His decision to give the red hat to the Peruvian Jesuit, Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, 69, the archbishop of Huancayo, is particularly significant as he has been a prophetic leader in the effort to protect the environment in the Amazon region, even before the encyclical “Laudato Si’,” and has received death threats for his work. He is a member of REPAM (the church network for the Amazonian region) and of the preparatory council for the synod of bishops for Amazonia, which will convene in October 2019.
Francis will also make cardinal Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto, 71, of the Diocese of Leirà-Fatima, in Portugal, whom he got to know well during his visit to Fatima on May 13, 2017, for the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children, two of whom he declared saints on that day.
Francis’ decision to give the red hat to the papal almoner came as a big surprise to many in the Vatican.
From the beginning, Francis set out to reduce the number of cardinals in the Roman Curia, and he has largely kept to this goal. This time, however, he gave red hats to two of its members: Luis Ladaria Ferrer, 74, the Spanish Jesuit who is the prefect of the Congregation for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 69, a Holy See diplomat who has held the third-ranking position in the Secretariat of State, having responsibility for the general affairs of the church since 2011, and has also been the pope’s special delegation to the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta. Becciu is now expected to be appointed to head a Vatican congregation or, perhaps, to return to his native Sardinia to head a diocese there.
Francis’ decision to give the red hat to the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski (Poland), 54, came as a big surprise to many in the Vatican. He is Francis’ point man in reaching out to help the poor and outcasts in Rome and has done so with extraordinary creativity, providing food and clothing, getting the Vatican to install showers and toilets for them behind the colonnades in St. Peter’s Square, inviting them to see the Sistine Chapel and involving them in other ways in celebrations linked to the pope or the Vatican. His role is not appreciated by everyone in the Vatican; some criticize it and him, but the pope fully supports his work for the poor, the outcast and the discarded. By giving him the red hat Francis is stating clearly that this work for the poor is a priority in his pontificate. It is the first time in history that the papal almoner has been given a red hat.
As he has done before, Francis gave the red hat to three churchmen over the age of 80: Sergio Obeso Rivera, emeritus archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, Toribio Ticona Porco, the emeritus bishop of Corocoro, Bolivia, and Aquilino Bocos Merino, a Spanish member of the Claretian order who has been a spiritual guide to many people.
With the addition of these three new cardinals who do not have a right to vote in a conclave, the number of cardinals over 80 is now 101. This means the College of Cardinals today has 227 members, 126 of whom are electors.