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Gerard O’ConnellJuly 09, 2023
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives the annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington April 26, 2023. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives the annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington April 26, 2023. The Vatican announced on July 9 thay Archbishop Pierre will be one of 21 new cardinals to be named by Pope Francis at a consistory on Sept. 30 (OSV News photo/courtesy Patrick Ryan, The Catholic University of America).

Pope Francis took the Vatican by surprise at midday, July 9, when he announced that he will hold a consistory on Sept. 30 to create 21 new cardinals, 18 of them electors with the right to vote in the next conclave.

This is Pope Francis’ ninth consistory, which means that he has held one almost every year. According to a precedent established by Pope Paul VI, the number should not exceed 120, but John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis have, on various occasions, all exceeded that number in creating new cardinals. With these additions, Pope Francis will on Sept. 30 have brought the total number of cardinals with the right to vote in a conclave to 137 .

Announcing his ninth consistory, Francis said, referring to the new cardinals-to-be, “Where they come from expresses the universality of the Church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth.” Moreover, he said, “the insertion of the new Cardinals in the Diocese of Rome, manifests the inseparable bond between the See of Peter and the local Churches spread throughout the world.”

Pope Francis announced totday that he will hold a consistory on Sept. 30 to create 21 new cardinals, 18 of them electors with the right to vote in the next conclave.

There is only one American among the electors, Chicago-born Archbishop Robert Prevost, 67, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops, but he was number one on the pope’s list of nominees. The next two names on the list are also senior Roman Curia officials: Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti (Italy), 67, prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches; and Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández (Argentina), 60, prefect of the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. All three nominations were expected.

This means that the heads of 14 out of the 16 Vatican dicasteries (the Vatican name for departments) of the Roman Curia are now cardinals. The two that do not have cardinals are communications (which is headed by an Italian layman, Paolo Ruffini) and legislative texts (headed by an Italian archbishop, Filippo Iannone, O.Carm.).

Fifty percent of the new cardinal electors are Europeans, but the ones Pope Francis has chosen are surprising. Two of them are currently nuncios (Vatican ambassadors). The French Archbishop Christophe Pierre, 77, is nuncio to the United States, and the Swiss Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, 76, is currently nuncio to Italy and before that was nuncio to Argentina. Apart from Archbishop Gugerotti, the pope has named one other Italian as an elector, the Franciscan Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, 58, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. The pope will give the red hat to the following Europeans: Polish Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, of the archdiocese of Lodz, 59, in central Poland; French born François-Xavier Bustillo, O.F.M.Conv., 54, bishop of Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica (France); Portuguese born Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar, 49, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon; and Spanish born Ángel Fernández Artime, S.D.B., 62, major rector of the Salesians.

Francis will also give the red hat to the new archbishop of Madrid, José Cobo Cano, 57, even though his predecessor, Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, is still an elector—he will turn 79 on his next birthday.

Many had expected that Francis would also make the new archbishops of Buenos Aires, Brussels and Toronto cardinals at this consistory, but he did not do so because in each of those cases their predecessors will continue to be cardinal electors for four or more years.

The first Argentine pope will create three cardinal electors from Latin America, his home continent. In addition to Archbishop Fernández, he will give the red hat to another Argentinian and fellow Jesuit, Ángel Sixto Rossi, 64, archbishop of Córdoba, and to Luis José Rueda Aparaicio, 61, archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia.

Three African prelates will receive the red hat at the consistory on Sept. 30: Stephen Brislin, 66, archbishop of Cape Town (South Africa); Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, 59, archbishop of Juba (South Sudan); and Protase Rugambwa, 63, archbishop of Tabora (Tanzania) and former secretary of the Dicastery for the Evangelization of Peoples.

There are two new Asian cardinals on the pope’s list today. Ever focused on China, Pope Francis has given the red hat to Stephen Chow, S.J., 63, whom he made bishop of Hong Kong in 2021. He will be the eighth Chinese cardinal since Pius XII gave the first red hat to Thomas Tien Ken-sin, S.V.D., in 1946. This means Hong Kong will now have three cardinals, including Joseph Zen-Ze-kiun and John Tong Hon, both of whom are over the age of 80. The other Asian who will receive the red hat is Sebastian Francis, 71, bishop of Penang (Malaysia).

Before Francis made the announcement today, the College of Cardinals had a total of 222 members, of whom 121 are electors—that is, they are under the age of 80 with the right to vote in a conclave. By the time he holds the consistory on Sept. 30, the number of electors will have decreased to 119 as two Italian electors (created by Benedict XVI) will have reached the age of 80; but with the addition of 18 new electors, Pope Francis will have brought the total number of cardinals with the right to vote in a conclave to 137.

Vatican statistics reveal that of those 137 cardinal electors, 9 have been created by John Paul II, 29 by Benedict XVI, and 99 will have been created by Francis. That means that Francis will have created just over 72 percent of the electors that could enter a conclave. A candidate needs two-thirds of the vote to be elected pope.

If a conclave were to be held on that date, Sept. 30, the geographical breakdown of the 137 electors would show the following:

  • Europe: 53 electors (including 15 Italians)
  • North America: 15 electors (U.S.A. 11, Canada 4)
  • Latin America: 24 electors
  • Africa: 19 electors
  • Asia: 23 electors
  • Oceania: 3 electors

When one compares that to the conclave that elected Francis as pope on March 13, 2013, one can see how radically Francis has changed the college of electors over the past 10 years. At the 2013 conclave there were 115 electors present from 48 countries and five continents: Europe had 60 electors (28 of them Italian), Latin America 19, North America 14 (U.S.A. 11, Canada 3), Africa 11, Asia 10, and Oceania 1 (Australia).

Since he became pope, Francis has held nine consistories using the following criteria:

  • Universality: to include as many countries as possible with special attention to the peripheries and countries that never had a cardinal before, as well as situations of conflict or extreme poverty.
  • Toreduce the number of Europeans and Italians in the college of cardinals: He has achieved these goals, particularly in reducing the number of Italians (from 28 in the 2013 conclave to 15 on Sept. 30) and Europeans (60 in the 2013 conclave to 53 on Sept. 30).
  • He also sought to break away from the tradition (exaggerated in Italy) whereby the bishop of certain sees (cities usually) would automatically get the red hat at the next consistory. Francis has broken away from this tradition in Italy, the United States and some other places.

By naming 21 new cardinals today, as he also did in 2022, Francis appears to have taken into consideration that between now and the end of the year, seven electors will have reached the age of 80 and so will lose the right to vote in a conclave. Likewise, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2024, another 13 electors will turn 80 and lose the right to vote. These changes, of course, would also change the geographical balance. The fact that 20 electors will lose the vote between now and the end of 2024 means that Francis could hold another consistory at the end of 2024.

Here’s the list of the 18 new electors:

         1. Robert Francis Prevost, O.S.A., prefect of Dicastery for Bishops (U.S.A.)

2. Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of Dicastery for Oriental Churches, (Italy)
3. Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of Dicastery for Doctrine of the Faith (Argentina)
4. Emil Paul Tscherrig, apostolic nuncio (Switzerland)
5. Christophe Louis Pierre, apostolic nuncio (France)
6. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (Italy)
7. Stephen Brislin, archbishop of Cape Town (South Africa)
8. Ángel Sixto Rossi, S.J., archbishop of Córdoba (Argentina)
9. Luis José Rueda Aparicio, archbishop of Bogotá (Colombia)
10. Grzegorz Ryś, archbishop of Lodz (Poland)
11. Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, archbishop of Juba (South Sudan)
12. José Cobo Cano, archbishop of Madrid (Spain)
13. Protase Rugambwa, archbishop of Tabora (Tanzania)
14. Sebastian Francis, bishop of Penang (Malaysia)
15. Stephen Chow Sau-Yan, S.J., bishop of Hong Kong (China)
16. François-Xavier Bustillo, O.F.M. Conv., bishop of Ajaccio, Corsica (France)
17. Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon (Portugal)
18. Ángel Fernández Artime, S.D.B., major rector of the Salesians (Spain).
Pope Francis will also give the red hat to two archbishops and one priest over the age of 80, who will not have a vote in a future conclave, who, he said, “have distinguished themselves in their service to the church.”
19. Agostino Marchetto, a retired nuncio (Italy)
20. Diego Rafael Padrón Sánchez, emeritus archbishop of Cumaná (Venezuela)
21. Luis Pascual Dri, O.F.M.Cap., 96, confessor at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompei, Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Pope Francis concluded his announcement with these words: “Let us pray for the new Cardinals, so that, confirming their adhesion to Christ, the merciful and faithful High Priest, they might help me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome for the good of the entire Holy People faithful to God.”

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