Pope Francis’ choice of 14 new cardinals, announced on Pentecost Sunday, reflects his vision of a Church for the poor, his concern for persecuted Christians and the environment, and his drive to reach out to the peripheries of the Church — often areas where the Church is growing fastest.
But this means the Pope has again passed over traditional cardinalatial sees, including those in North America. As for Francis’ previous four consistories, major sees such as Los Angeles, headed by Archbishop José Gomez, and Philadelphia, led by Archbishop Charles Chaput, continue to be without a cardinal.
Eleven of the new cardinals, to be elevated at a consistory June 28, will be under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave, making the total number of cardinal-electors 126 — six more than the loosely adhered limit set by Blessed Paul VI. It also means that 59 cardinal-electors will have been chosen by Pope Francis, almost half of those allowed to vote in a papal election.
The new cardinals, who also act as the Pope’s closest advisers, come from all over the world, with an emphasis on the global south: Iraq, Peru, Madagascar and Pakistan. Two also come from Mexico and Bolivia, but they are over age 80 and chosen for their distinguished service to the Church. Three others are from Italy, one from Portugal (Fatima), one from Poland, one from Japan and two from Spain.
The Pope said his choices express “the universality of the Church, which continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men and women on earth.”
Almost all of the new cardinals reacted to the news with surprise, as they were notified with no prior warning; but this has become a common practice among modern popes.
Francis’ decision to make Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako a cardinal is significant for his role in leading the ever-dwindling persecuted Chaldean community in Iraq and those who have fled abroad. He told Vatican News it was “a surprise, really,” but he was “very grateful” and sees the appointment as a force for “hope, encouragement to move forward toward reconciliation in the country.”
The Chaldean patriarch said it is not the first time the Pope has recognized the suffering Church in such a way, and he recalled Francis’ elevation of the apostolic nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, to the College of Cardinals in 2016. Benedict XVI also made Patriarch Sako’s predecessor, Emmanuel Karim Delly, a cardinal in 2007.
Patriarch Sako said his appointment is for Muslims as well as Christians.
“A Muslim told me this is for all believers in God,” he said.
The Pope also recognized the suffering Church in Pakistan, with the appointment of Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, recognized for his work in interreligious dialogue, and closer to home, by elevating the archbishop of the earthquake-hit Italian city of L’Aquila, Giuseppe Petrocchi.
The Pope’s emphasis on the poor was seen in his appointment of the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, to the College of Cardinals. The Polish cardinal-designate, familiarly known as “Don Corrado,” told Vatican News his appointment was a “red hat for the poor and volunteers. I don’t deserve it.” The prelate said it was “something unexpected, never sought” and said he has simply tried to carry out what the Holy Father has wanted him to do.
The archbishop and a group of volunteers make regular visits to the poor around Rome, giving them food, clothing and support. “Even tonight we’re going to Ostiense,” he said, recalling that the first cardinal-deacons were those who served the poor. He was told nothing of his appointment, except to watch for an announcement after the Pentecost Sunday Regina Coeli prayer, he said.
The Pope’s concern for the environment is reflected in his appointment of Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru. A Jesuit, Archbishop Barreto’s choice is undoubtedly linked to the upcoming Pan-Amazonian Synod in 2019 that, among other aspects, will focus on environmental degradation in the region, especially the Amazon rainforest.
The archbishop is an “integral ecological prophet,” said Mauricio Lopez, the executive secretary of Rete Panamazzonica, a Church environmental group, in comments to Agenzia Fides. He said the cardinal-designate was a prophet in this sense before the issuance of the Pope’s 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home), and even more so after its publication. Archbishop Barreto, he added, wishes for the Amazon to be seen as a “source of life for the world,” and at its heart.
Just two appointments involve the Curia, one of whom is Spanish Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Although CDF prefects have always been cardinals, this was not a foregone conclusion, given the Pope’s preference to prioritize other aspects of Church governance over doctrine, but it appears the Pope has been satisfied with Archbishop Ladaria’s work since he took up the position last year.
The second and more interesting appointment is that of Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the sostituto at the Secretariat of State — a powerful position overseeing the day-to-day running of the Roman Curia.
A member of the Focolare movement from Pattada, Sardinia, Archbishop Becciu was called to the Vatican by Benedict XVI in 2011, after the former pontiff was impressed with his organization of his Cuba visit, undertaken while Archbishop Becciu was apostolic nuncio in Havana.
The Sardinian prelate is known to act as a reliable “fixer” for Francis, someone whom he depends upon to bring people into line. The Pope, for example, looked to him to resolve internal struggles at the Order of Malta last year, appointing him special delegate to the ancient chivalric order.
Although that role is likely to continue unchanged, it’s likely the archbishop is being primed also to take over a senior Curial role, such as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints or even Secretariat for the Economy, replacing Cardinal George Pell, who now faces trial for sex-abuse charges in Australia.
Archbishop Becciu spoke to Vatican News of his surprise at the news. As cardinals, he said, they are to show total loyalty to the Pope.
“We should be witnesses of communion and unity,” he said, as well as be willing to shed their blood, “really out of fidelity and love for the Church.” He also said he sees his position as a means to find new ways to evangelize a world that, especially in the West, is becoming ever more “de-Christianized.” This must be done, he said, “always in communion with the Holy Father: We need to build with him newness for the Church.”
Other notable appointments include Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of Rome, who replaced Cardinal Agostino Vallini last year. Rome’s vicar generals have traditionally been made cardinals.
But Italy’s domination of the College of Cardinals, although still present, is not what it once was.
The major see of Milan — one of the largest archdioceses in the world and headed by Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini — was skipped over in favor of more sees on the periphery (his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Scola, is not yet 80, which may have also played a role).
The other major sees of Bologna, Turin, Palermo and the patriarchal see of Venice, once seen as a steppingstone to the papacy, will again miss out at the upcoming consistory.
Cardinals to Be Elevated to the College, June 28:
Eligible to Vote in a Consistory
His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Babylon, Iraq, and leader of the Chaldean Church
Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome
Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, sostituto at the Secretariat of State and special delegate to the Order of Malta
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan
Bishop António dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fátima, Portugal
Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru
Archbishop Desiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar
Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, Italy
Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo of Osaka, Japan
Not Eligible to Vote in a Consistory Due to Age
Archbishop Emeritus Sergio Obeso Rivera of Xalapa, Mexico
Archbishop Emeritus Toribio Ticona Porco of Corocoro, Bolivia
Father Aquilino Bocos Merino, former superior general of the Claretian Missionaries
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.