America is pleased to offer short interviews with many of the church leaders who will be made cardinal during this weekend's upcoming consistory in Rome. Pope Francis continued to be the pope of surprises when his choices for cardinal-designates in January indicated a heightened attention to the church at the peripheries. America's Los Angeles correspondent Jim McDermott, S.J., was able to reach 17 of the 20 cardinal-designates. These short and sometimes surprising e-mailed dialogues will be posted throughout the week leading up to the Feb. 14 consistory in Rome (and beyond).
When Pope Francis first started out as an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires in 1992, he was assigned as vicar to the Flores district, which was in fact the part of town in which he had grown up. And he would later relate that the work there was easy because he just had to keep doing what the previous auxiliary had done.
That previous auxiliary was then-Bishop Luis Héctor Villalba, 80, who was made a Cardinal last Saturday. In his many years of service to the church, most especially 12 years spent as archbishop of Tucumán in the northeast of Argentina, Cardinal Villalba was a tireless advocate for the poor and a critic of government corruption.
In fact, each year on July 9th, the Republic of Argentina’s Independence Day, it is the tradition that the President travels to Tucumán—where independence was declared—for a day of celebrations. And while archbishop Cardinal Villalba regularly took advantage of that opportunity to give fearless homilies at the traditional Te Deum service where the president would be present, challenging government positions on topics like poverty, inequality, gay marriage or education, or attacking it for its selfishness and corruption. “The country demands honesty and transparency,” he said in one such homily. “The meek do no evil.”
In another he decried “the selfishness of men, rulers or people who put ahead their own good or a group,” as a result of which “the unity of the nation is bankrupt.”
In 1990, when Cardinal Karl-Josef Rauber, 80, became the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy—the Vatican’s training school for diplomats—he made a point of making sure that his students took weekend parish calls. “You cannot just be a bureaucrat, or you have missed your true task,” he said recently, recalling those days. Good diplomats are “also good pastors.”
Reflecting on Cardinal Rauber’s 43 years of diplomatic work, in which he served as nuncio for eight different countries in Europe and Africa, his emphasis on the pastoral stands out. Before becoming President of the Academy, Cardinal Rauber spent eight years working as nuncio to Tunisia and Uganda. It was a difficult time in Uganda, filled with instability and civil war. Still, it remains Rauber’s favorite assignment. “You needed not to come with theories;” he recalled. “It was about the practical help.”
While serving as President of the Academy, Cardinal Rauber was asked to investigate the diocese of Chur, Switzerland. Bishop Wolfgang Haas had been appointed in 1990; within a year the people and the priests were chafing at his conservatism and controlling ways. Rauber remembers working days from 8am past midnight, listening to different parties, trying to find a solution. On one occasion he called the auxiliaries together to meet with the Bishop. “And the auxiliaries stood up and said ‘Wolfgang, you gotta go! Otherwise there will be no peace in this diocese.” Asked what he was thinking at the time, Rauber responded in interviews that he was thinking about “Healing. That wounds heal...And if it does not work, then the bishop must resign or be moved.”
Years after he had been appointed Bishop of Xai-Xai in Mozambique, now Cardinal Júlio Duarte Langa, 87, was asked how he had reacted to the announcement. He explained: “Well I think the Holy Father at the time was looking for someone better and not finding anyone exceptional he just settled for what was available—that’s how they chose me!”
Born in 1927 in the southern town on the coast of the Indian Ocean that he would later lead, Cardinal Langa was a priest for almost 20 years when he was ordained bishop; he would serve in Xai-Xai for 28 years, from 1976 until his retirement in 2004. While serving as bishop he was put in charge of the priests of Mozambique, and was much beloved for his care, fatherly style.
A talented linguist, the cardinal was also responsible for translating the texts of Vatican II into the vernacular languages of Mozambique.
But more than anything, according to Archbishop João Nunes of Maputo, Mozambique, what distinguished Cardinal Langa was his steady presence. “While others travel around the country and the world, he remains at his diocese prioritizing the poorer population in the region.”
Though Mozambique is more than twice the size of California, has a Gross Domestic Product of nearly 15 billion and new gas and coal mines, it has the seventh lowest GDP per capita in the entire world, roughly $1046 per person. The life expectancy for the nation’s 25 million people is just 52.6 years.
Speaking to Canadian Catholic TV network Salt & Light, Archbishop Nunes said of the nomination of Cardinal Langa: “It is those who remain anonymous, who do not stand out much, who do the most work and carry God’s words farther. I believe that Pope Francis, with these nominations, has tried to remind the world that there are God’s children in places like this who have not been correctly represented.”
Most of what Cardinal Luigi De Magistris, 88, spent his life doing you’ll never hear about. Not because it wasn’t important, but because it was.
Born into a well-known family in Cagliari, the capital city of the island of Sardinia off the west coast of Italy, Cardinal de Magistris spent most of his adult life working in the Roman Curia. He was 10 years working for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and staffed Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani during Vatican II. In 1969 he went to the Secretariat of State and spent another 10 years as a staffer there. Then in 1979 he was made second in charge of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
For as forbidding as its title makes it sound, the Apostolic Penitentiary is not a jail, or even an institution that metes out punishment, but rather the church’s tribunal of mercy. Those who come before it seek forgiveness for one of five serious church offenses—the desecration of the Eucharist; breaking the seal of confession; offering absolution to a sexual partner; making an attempt on the life of the pope; and direct participation in an abortion by a man who now wants to become a priest. The Penitentiary hears these cases, offers penance and operates entirely under the seal of confession.
As such, there is no record of the cases, nor any information that can ever be shared as to reconciliations that have occurred. But its importance to the church is clear; during a Conclave the Head of the Apostolic Penitentiary is in fact one of only three Cardinals that is allowed to continue having contact with the outside world. His job is considered too important to be interrupted.
Cardinal De Magistris spent 21 years as the second in charge of the Penitentiary. In 2001, at 75, the normal age of retirement for a bishop, he was promoted by Pope John Paul II to director.
In his 40 plus years as a bishop in Colombia, Archbishop José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez did many extraordinary things. He attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council—he is in fact one of the few remaining fathers of the council—and supported its implementation in Colombia.
Cardinal Pimiento was also a delegate to the 1968 General Conference of the Latin American Bishops at Medellín, Colombia, which called for the church to make a “preferential option for the poor,” and again to its conferences in 1979 at Puebla, Mexico, and in 1992 at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Between 1972 and 1978 he was twice elected president of the Episcopal Conference in Colombia and worked with the Holy See on the reform of its Concordat with Colombia in 1973, which gave the almost-entirely Catholic state more autonomy from the church.
Over 20 years as Archbishop of Manizales in south-central Colombia, Cardinal Pimiento was outspoken about corruption, calling the country “morally sick, [as] step by step corruption and lies have taken power in the political arena.” Drug trafficking, he said in 1996, “has darkened the moral conscience of many Colombians, destroying the basic values of rectitude.”
He was also known for his attention to poor and marginalized communities. When the Nevado del Ruis Volcano erupted in 1985, he provided over a hundred homes for its victims. And when he himself retired, he asked to be sent to Urabá, a missionary region where there was serious paramilitary activity. When a friend warned him Urabá dangerous, the then-Archbishop insisted, “My life belongs to God, not to men.”
Ninety-six years old today, when the cardinal first became a bishop in 1955, he chose as his episcopal motto from Philippians 1:21: Vivere Christus Est—“For me, To Live is Christ.” Yet in his career he was known for another motto, as well: “A priest must live as simply as his people.”
In the Spirit of the Cross
Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij; Bangkok, Thailand
In his first official speech after learning that he had been named a Cardinal, Bangkok’s Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, 65, said he saw his mission as to be “a man of dialogue and harmony” in Southeast Asia, a region that sometimes sees Christianity as a “Western product.”
Catholicism first came to the Kingdom of Thailand in the 17th century—2015 in fact marks the 350th anniversary of that arrival. Today the church accounts for roughly 0.7 percent of the Thailand’s 66 million people. And yet by another scale the community is thriving; in 2010 it had 299 vocations, from a national community of 336,000 people, making it per capita the most vocation-rich country in the world.
Given the context in which the church finds itself, Cardinal Kriengsak, who was installed as archbishop in capitol city Bangkok in 2009 after two years serving in Nakhon Sawan, the largest diocese in the country, has often spoken of interreligious dialogue as an essential element of the faith. “Asian people are by nature religious people,” he said in January. “We are open to other religions, to other people. We see the possibilities of interreligious collaboration. We respect each other’s faith.”
At the same time Cardinal Kriengsak has been a strong proponent of Catholics sharing their faith. “The church is essentially a sign and an instrument to proclaim the Reign of God, and all the disciples of Christ are called to announce and share the Good News, both to those who have not yet heard it and to those who are not yet of the same sheepfold.”
The cardinal has long been a proponent of small faith-based communities operating out of parishes that find enrichment in the Word of God and go out to help the needy and work for justice and peace in the community.
And there is great need for peace and justice within Thailand. Human trafficking is a major problem, with young men and women from Laos, Myanmar, China and parts of Eastern Europe forced to serve as sex slaves, often for Western tourists.
And the nation has suffered a series of political upheavals in recent years. In 2001 the country had its most open, corruption free elections; by 2006 there had been a coup by the military. In 2013 after the Prime Minister of another elected government gave amnesty to a series of corrupt politicians, including the Prime Minister’s brother, protests in the hundreds of thousands broke out and eventually toppled her government. But instead of new elections once again the military stepped in. The country—which is the 20th most populous nation in the world, and an important hub of international business in the region—currently exists under martial law.
For his part Cardinal Kriengsak looks to the Cross as a source of hope and possibility. At his ordination he took the motto “The message of the Cross is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18), and spoke about living through the challenges of each day “in the spirit of the Cross.” To do so, he said, allows one to “fully accept all difficulties and transforms them into love,” a love that “will reflect God’s love and mercy more and more.”
Cardinal Kriengsak was unable to send responses to America’s questions. We wish him well in his new ministry.
In his 34 years as a priest, Archbishop Dominique François Mamberti, 62, has worked on the church’s diplomatic teams in Algeria, Chile and Lebanon; represented the Vatican at the United Nations; served as nuncio to Sudan and apostolic delegate to Somalia and Eritrea; been the Vatican’s Foreign Minister; and as of this year is the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Catholic Church’s highest judicial authority.
And over the course of this career, Archbishop Mamberti has persistently called on the world community to move beyond their own preconceptions and experiences to work for a greater good. “The Holy See,” he said in a visit to Australia last November, “acts as a voice of conscience, at the service of the common good, by drawing attention to the anthropological, ethical and religious aspects of the various questions affecting the lives of peoples, nations and the international community as a whole.”
So in a 2011 address he called for the United Nations to be “courageous” in coming up with a viable two-state solution in the Middle East; a year later he challenged the world’s “loss of faith in the value of dialogue, and the temptation to favor ‘a priori’ one of the sides in regional and national conflicts.”
Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Archbishop Mamberti noted that it was “not just a reminder of the end of an era of profound division; it is a symbol of hope, showing that it is possible to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the benefit of what is deeply rooted in our human nature, namely life in dignity and freedom.”
In his 20 years as a bishop, what has distinguished Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, 72, is his willingness to enter into the realities of the people that he serves. In 1995 he was made bishop of Bilbao, a region riven by the violence and terror of the separatist paramilitary group ETA. (Bilbao lies in the Basque country, which has long struggled with Spain over the question of independence.)
Neither from the region, nor a Basque, then-Bishop Blázquez entered into the struggle. He denounced the ETA, calling their continued existence “unbearable”, insisting that their movement “represents no one” and saying their disappearance would “ethically dignify our society.” At the same time, he tried to mediate a peace accord, a move condemned by the government as legitimizing the separatist movement.
Since becoming Archbishop in Valladolid in 2010 Blázquez has similarly entered into the harsh economic struggles of the Spanish people post-recession. One of his first moves as Archbishop was to announce that he would be setting aside part of his salary to help those struggling with Spain’s financial crisis. He encouraged his priests to do the same.
Archbishop Blázquez has also served the broader church in Spain; since 2005 he has been first president, then vice president, and now president again of the Spanish Episcopal Conference and has been responsible for many of the conference’s recent documents, as well as many other articles and books about theology and the church.
Each day the Archbishop says Mass at the community of retired priests next door to the chancery. The sisters there note the little gifts he often leaves—rosaries blessed by the pope, prayer cards from his journeys. They say he is like family to them. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
In Asia, says Hanoi Archbishop Peter Nguyễn Văn Nhơn, “It is more suitable for us to speak of the life of Jesus in a manner more in accord with how He Himself preached two thousand years ago, with His parables. An eastern, not rationalist, fashion.”
Age 76, now Cardinal Nguyễn has spent his life building bridges between Christianity and Vietnam, trying to speak in a way that leads to conversation and community. Catholicism has long occupied a precarious spot in Vietnamese society; in the nineteenth century it was the religion of the French who invaded and occupied the country. To the late-20th century Communist government it has at times likewise represented the possibility of a foreign threat. The Vatican has no official standing here; religious activity—such as the Archbishop’s initial ordination as an auxiliary in 1991—is subject to the approval of officials. Priests and other Catholics have been imprisoned at various times for perceived anti-government activities.
In recent years, as Vietnam has allowed greater religious freedom for its country’s six million Catholics, new conflicts have emerged, particularly over the government’s promise to return confiscated property like monasteries and churches. 2007 saw some Catholics, including church leaders, speaking out, mounting protests. But not then-Bishop Nguyễn. “Continuous fighting and clashes,” he advised, “will not do anyone any good.”
Acknowledging the fears of the regime, he has represented to the government that the property the church requests back is “not to serve its own interests, to hoard or to accumulate riches but to ensure that they are used to the advantage of all people.” This point of view hasn’t always won him favor with Catholics, who wondered before he became Archbishop of Hanoi in 2010 whether he wasn’t making it easy on the regime.
But his focus has yielded some results: since the 1990s the Vatican has sent an envoy to Vietnam every year, attempting to establish formal relationships. In 2011 Vietnam agreed for the first time to a non-residential papal representative. Speaking after the consistory on Saturday, Cardinal Nguyễn said the dialogue they are engaged in “requires patience and sincerity. I’ve seen obvious efforts from the Vatican as well as from the government. The direction looks positive, but the path is still long and we need time.”
Each year Portugal’s leading newspaper, Expresso, hands out the Pessoa Prize—“the Person”—to a figure in Portuguese society who has contributed most to the culture. It’s the nation’s most important cultural award. Its recipients are writers, artists, musicians, physicists, architects. And, as of 2009, priests: Manuel José Macário do Jesus Clemente, 66, then Bishop of Oporto in the North of Portugal, now the Patriarch of Lisbon (and as of Saturday a Cardinal), won the Person for his work as a historian and his civic involvement. The jury praised his “humanistic stance in favor of dialogue and tolerance,” and called him “an ethical reference for all of Portuguese society."
His episcopal motto In Lumine Tuo, “In Your Light,” Dom Manuel has made a career of shedding light on the relationship between faith and culture in Portugal. A PhD in Historical Theology, he is the author of dozens of books and articles and a well regarded professor. He’s also been very involved in social communications. He was the first Portuguese bishop to ever use YouTube for his Christmas message. He’s served as the President of the Portuguese bishops’ Episcopal Commission of Culture and Communications from 2005-2011 and as of 2011 is on the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
In 2010 after the dominoes from the Greek economic crisis left Portugal also unable to pay its debts, Dom Manuel called on the church to show charity toward the many in need. God is “waiting for us in the poverty of others,” he said in his 2013 Christmas homily.
He showed an equal willingness to challenge the state—saying the levels of unemployment were far greater than being reported—and people rioting, saying violence “merely undermines and weakens every cause and never resolves any issues.”
The diocese of Lisbon dates back from the 4th century. Lisbon itself, known as “The White City” for the way its soft sunshine makes the buildings glow, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, older than Rome by four hundred years. The country is over 80 percent Catholic (and the Patriarchate the same); but on average only 20 percent attend Mass regularly.
Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., 66, has been the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia since 1999, also the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See.
Located in the Horn of Africa in the continent’s Northeast, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has a population of 87 million people, making it the second most populous country on the continent and the most populous landlocked country in the world. Its landmass is slightly smaller than Texas plus California put together. The country has the largest GDP of any country in East or Central Africa, but per capita it’s still one of the poorest places in the world. Two thirds of the population is illiterate. Sixty-three percent of the population is Christian, but less than 1 percent are Catholic.
A member of the Congregation of the Mission (otherwise known as the Lazarists or Vincentians), Archbishop Souraphiel has been a strong proponent of education, establishing in 2005 the Ethiopian Catholic University of St. Thomas Aquinas and calling on educated Ethiopians to stay in the country and help its people to thrive. Archbishop Souraphiel has spoken out on moral and social issues. In 2008 he joined other Ethiopian religious leaders in encouraging lawmakers to outlaw homosexual activity in the country’s constitution, calling it “an infestation.” In 2014 the Catholic Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa that he heads issued a statement in support of marriage, saying “we strongly condemn same sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural laws.”
Souraphiel has also drawn repeated attention to the scourge of human trafficking, which is a big business in Ethiopia; children particularly from rural areas are forced into servitude in other parts of the country and to a lesser extent abroad; some girls are also made into sex slaves. Reflecting on the effect Pope Francis has had in Africa, Souraphiel notes that Africans “have great respect and great love for the Holy Father because of the emphasis he’s putting on the poor, on the migrants, on the disabled, and on the simplicity of life.” When it comes to the Vatican, Souraphiel posits, “We don’t need a power structure.” Instead it should be a “moral voice in the world [that is] credible.”
When Bishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R., 70, ordinary of the diocese of David, Panamá, was told he was being elevated to the role of Cardinal, he thought it was “crazy.” And the fact is, although Panama was in fact the home of the first Catholic diocese in the Americas, it has never in its 500 year history had a Cardinal. Neither has the Order of Augustinian Recollects, which Bishop Lacunza first joined in 1967. (It’s also likely no new Cardinal has ever found out about his appointment via WhatsApp, a smartphone messaging application. His sister wrote to ask him, “You have nothing to tell me?”)
Originally from Pamplona, Spain, Bishop Lacunza was sent to Panamá by the Augustinian Recollects early in his priesthood and spent years there serving as rector in schools and president of the Federation of Catholic Schools. In 1986 he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop, and in 1999 he was made ordinary in the diocese of David, an agricultural region in the southwestern-most part of Panamá.
Today Panamá has a population of 4 million people; recent years have brought an economic boom. Yet Lacunza notes how little of that has trickled down to the poor, especially in such a Catholic nation: “One cannot help but be astonished that the majority of Panamanians, 80 to 85 percent, say they are Catholics...and that Panamá is a society of so much inequality, where more than 30 percent of the population lives in poverty, with spectacular levels of growth.”
As bishop Monsignor Lacunza has worked to mediate conflicts between indigenous groups, government and corporations on things like water rights, mining rights, deforestation, the construction of dams. In 2013 an independent expert sent by the United Nations noted the precariousness of indigenous communities due to investment projects from outside.
For his part, Lacunza has said that he feels it is his mission as bishop “to work among the poor, with the poorest, that is, the indigenous people of the Ngabe-Bugle region,” a people who “have been forgotten for years.” Upon receiving an honorary degree from a local university in 2012 for the work he had done, he called the degree “an undeserved recognition for a person with so many faults and errors."
Twice elected the President of Episcopal Conference in Panamá, Bishop Lacunza’s episcopal motto is from St. Augustine: “Praesumus si Presumus”—“We Lead if We Serve.”
Archbishop John Dew, 66, leader of the Church in Wellington, New Zealand, first looked to the priesthood because he felt a pull “to be doing something that would make a difference to the lives of others....The call of the Gospel was the only way that made sense for me.”
Roughly 55 percent of New Zealand’s 4.5 million people self-identify as Christian. Of them, only about 12 percent are Catholic. Even so, when Dew was made an auxiliary in Wellington in 1995, Sacred Heart Cathedral couldn’t hold all the people planning to attend. They had to have the event in the Wellington Town Hall instead.
Wellington sits on the southern tip of New Zealand’s northern island; it’s a land of ocean, mountains and earthquakes. In fact, every five years Wellington experiences a year-long non-destructive slow quake beneath the city—if it happened all at once, the quake would be a 7 on the Richter Scale.
But even with that, and despite being the most remote capitol city in the most remote country in the world, Wellington is often reviewed as one of the nicest places on the planet to live.
His episcopal motto “Peace Through Integrity,” Archbishop Dew has long been an advocate for change in the church’s position regarding the divorced and remarried. At the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist he called the issue of the church’s communion ban “a source of scandal” and said the bishops have a “pastoral duty and an obligation before God to discuss and debate this question.” After the 2014 Synod on the Family, he noted how much things had changed; “Nine years ago...I talked about the possibility of Communion for the divorced and remarried and got a lot of criticism. Now at this Synod it’s being talked about openly by many, many people.”
Along with his fellow Pacific Cardinal-designate Soane Mafi of Tonga, Archbishop Dew has committed to keep issues of climate change and human trafficking before the church’s attention. He is the only native English speaker of the 20 new Cardinals Pope Francis selected.
For Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, Salesian priest and Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay, much is new. It’s been just three years since Archbishop Sturla was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop and less than twelve months since he was installed as ordinary of Montevideo. Born in 1959, ordained in 1987 and 55 years old, Sturla will be one of the youngest in the College of Cardinals (the very youngest, his fellow appointee Bishop Mahi of Tonga). Surprised to have been named, Sturla sees his appointment “as a distinction for the church in Uruguay rather than me.”
Roughly the size of Missouri, Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America. Half of its 3.3 million people live in capitol city Montevideo, port city on the Atlantic Ocean just across the Rio de La Plata from Argentina’s Buenos Aires. In many respects—press freedom, economic growth, lack of corruption—the nation prospers. Its democracy ranks first in Latin America. The United Nations designated it as Latin America’s only "high income" country.
At the same time the country’s religious affiliation has waned. The number of Uruguayans who identify themselves as Catholic has diminished by nearly 20 percent over the last 20 years. The country has also instituted a number of policies of concern to the church, including the legalization of abortion, the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage.
When asked by Spanish newspaper El Pais about these issues, Archbishop Sturla explained, "I defend the family, formed by man and woman, defend that these families be generous in the transmission of life, and at the same time I feel an enormous respect for the persons who form a homosexual people." With regard to both gay marriage and abortion, he believes the church must “move on/look ahead, because the law is already approved.”
The archbishop’s episcopal motto is “Servar al Señor con Alegria”—“To Serve the Lord with Joy.” Being a cardinal, he said recently, is “a call to a greater service and love.”
Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, 75, hails from the archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo, a Central Italian land of rolling hills, vineyards and sandy beaches on the Adriatic Sea. Ancona is a main port on the Adriatic, particularly for passenger vessels, and the economic center of the region.
A priest nearly 50 years, Archbishop Menichelli spent 23 years working inside the Apostolic Signatura, the Catholic Church’s main judicial court, and another two as the secretary for the Congregation of Oriental Churches. Yet what’s most noted about the Archbishop, both from those years and in his 20 years since as a bishop (ten going on eleven in Ancona-Osimo) is his constant connection with the pastoral and the people. He is well regarded as a preacher, has promoted pilgrimages and Corpus Christi processions, and has been repeatedly chosen to do catechesis at World Youth Days for the Italian bishops. In 2011 he held a Eucharistic Congress in Ancona; hundreds of thousands of people came. Italian newspaper Il Messangero called him “the soul” of the event.
In 2013 Menichelli preached that “The first thing is to recover simplicity... Is my episcopacy more valid if I wear a gold ring? Is it worth more if I wear a gem-encrusted cross? Or would it no longer be of service to people?” He himself has long been known for his own simple lifestyle, and the tiny ancient Fiat Panda that he drives to visit the 206,00 plus Catholics of his archdiocese. At Christmas Mass this year he pondered the loss of tenderness in society, and reminded his listeners that kindness and affection are part of our vocation as Christians: “with tenderness we do not turn a blind eye to human ugliness.”
His episcopal motto is “Sub Lumine Matris”—“Beneath the Mother’s Light.”
Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, 65, is bishop of the diocese of Santiago in the Republic of Cape Verde, a horseshoe archipelago of ten volcanic islands some 350 miles off the coast of northwest Africa.
Santiago is one of the Republic’s two dioceses, both of which Bishop Furtado has led in his 10 years as an ordinary. It’s also one of the oldest dioceses in all of Africa, dating back to 1533; Our Lady of the Rosary Church (erected in 1493) was in fact the first colonial church in the entire world. Of the area’s 320,000 plus residents, 92 percent are Catholic.
In his nearly 40 years as a priest, Bishop Furtado has served the people of Cape Verde in a wide variety of roles, including parish priest, pastor, diocesan treasurer and chancellor, rector of the local seminary, professor of Scripture studies and Vicar-General. He has also made it a priority to offer support for the many Cape Verdeans living abroad, a population that is even larger than the 514,000 on the islands themselves.
Though it has few natural resources, the Republic of Cape Verde has prospered under decades of stable democracy and economic management. Today it offers the longest life expectancy of any country in Africa and is one of the top countries in the world for renewable energy.
Bishop Furtado is the Republic’s first ever Cardinal. His episcopal motto is “Jesus, O Bom Pastor”—“Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”
Though Catholics in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar make up less than 1 percent of the country’s mostly-Buddhist population, Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, 66, of the archdiocese of Yangon has become an important voice for peace and justice throughout the country.
Long ruled by a military junta, Myanmar had been rated until recently as one of the worst human rights violators in the world. But in recent years the junta has softened its positions, releasing Nobel Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, preparing to hold elections and welcoming President Barack Obama, the first time in 50 years that an American president has visited the country.
Reflecting on the upcoming elections, Archbishop Bo in his Christmas homily preached, “Christ’s birth is a message of integral hope...People of Myanmar, DO NOT BE AFRAID to seek your right to dignity and prosperity....Do not be afraid of voting, do not be afraid of selecting your choice.” He has also spoken out vigorously on behalf of the religious toleration and condemned in particular the persecution of the country’s Muslim minority. “We have to celebrate our unity in diversity,” said Bo. “Our dream for the future of Myanmar is built on justice, peace and fraternity.”
In 2014 the Church in Myanmar celebrated its 500th anniversary. Archbishop Bo is the first Myanmar bishop ever to be made a Cardinal.
Archbishop Alberto Suárez-Inda, 75, has been a bishop in the Mexican state of Michoacán for nearly 30 years, and Archbishop of Morelia for nearly 20.
Located in the southwestern part of Mexico, the state of Michoacán has been through decades of violence both from local drug cartels and responding federal forces and citizen-formed militias. Over 70,000 Michoacános have died since 2006; many others have fled. In 2013 Archbishop Suárez and the other bishops of the state wrote their acting governor demanding intervention: “There is a permanent feeling of defenselessness and desperation, plus anger and fear because of the complicity, forced or voluntary, of some authorities with organized crime.”
Known as a welcoming, soft-spoken man, Suárez has long worked for peace and reconciliation. He has also challenged the 2.3 million Catholics in his diocese to be more than cultural Catholics: “For many, Catholicism and Christianity is simply a tradition...The most important thing for me is to train the laity with a social consciousness. That it not only be a devotional Christianity of prayer, of fiestas, but also work in the society.”
A priest for 50 years, Archbishop’s episcopal motto is “Vivimos para El Señor”—“We live for the Lord.”
Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 53, leads the Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Tonga, 176 islands spread over 270,000 square miles in the South Pacific. Ninety percent of the Kingdom’s approximately 102,000 citizens are Christian, of which 16,000 are Catholic.
Tonga is one of the most developed island nations in the Pacific. In recent years the Kingdom has had struggles over disparities in wealth and power between its nobility and citizens. In 2010 for the first time the majority of Parliament was chosen via election rather than royal appointment.
Appointed Coadjutor Bishop in 2007 at age 47, Bishop Mafi said at the time “I did not know whether to jump up or cry ‘Why me?’” Today in addition to his role as Bishop, Mafi serves as President of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, which covers the largest territory of any conference in the world.
Bishop Mafi will be the youngest member of the College of Cardinals, able to vote in the election of new popes until 2042.
Archbishop Francesco Montenegro, 68, serves the Archdiocese of Agrigento on the southeastern coast of Sicily, a population that includes some 449,000 Catholics and extends 130 miles into the Mediterranean Sea to the small island of Lampedusa.
Since 2011, over 300,000 refugees from wars in nearby Northern Africa have fled to Lampedusa seeking asylum. Thousands of others have died in transit, including nearly 4,000 last year alone, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Archbishop of Agrigento since 2008, “Don Franco” has been a tireless advocate for migrants, calling them “a sacrament of God’s presence to us” and inviting newly-elected Pope Francis to come to Lampedusa, which he did in July 2013 as his first official pastoral visit outside of Rome. “Immigration,” Montenegro said in 2013, “is not an ‘emergency’; we must have the courage to stop using that word.”
Former President of Caritas Italy and current President of the Italian Bishops’ Commission on Migration, Archbishop Montenegro was first appointed bishop in 2000, after 30 years a priest. His episcopal motto is “Caritas Sine Modo”—“Love without Limits.”