Francis’ New Cardinals

The Pope empowers his trusted aides and further globalizes the College

A consistory of cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica.
A consistory of cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica. (photo: 2012 Lewis Ashton Glancy/CNA)

On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis announced the creation of 14 new cardinals, to be installed officially June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, in a consistory in Rome.

In his announcement at the Regina Coeli for Pentecost, Francis said the new cardinals “express the universality of the Church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth.” He asked for prayers for the new cardinals so that, “confirming their adherence to Christ, the merciful and faithful high priest, they might help me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome for the good of all the Holy, Faithful People of God.”

While a relatively small group — 11 are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote for Francis' successor in a conclave — the appointments are quite striking in revealing Francis’ vision for the College of Cardinals. The new cardinals come from five continents and 11 countries: Italy, Iraq, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico and Bolivia.

With this latest consistory, Pope Francis has created almost half of the voting cardinals in any conclave. He has named 59 of the current 125 cardinal electors, compared to 19 by St. John Paul II and 47 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This will be Francis’s fifth consistory, with previous ones in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

As of June 29, the total number of cardinals will be at 227 (including Non-Electors over the age of 80). The Electors are now five above the current limit established under Blessed Pope Paul VI, however that number will decline with Cardinals aging out over the next year. It is also not unprecedented as John Paul II exceeded the limit several times without officially altering the rule.

The new members under the age of 80 are:

  • Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako of Iraq, 69, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Babylon
  • Archbishop Luis Ladaria of Spain, 74, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Archbishop Angelo De Donatis of Italy, 64, the papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome
  • Archbishop Giovanni Becciu of Italy, 69, the substitute secretary of state
  • Archbishop Konrad Krajewski of Poland, 54, the almoner of the Office of Papal Charities
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Pakistan, 72, the archbishop of Karachi
  • Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Portugal, 71, the bishop of Leiria-Fátima
  • Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru, 74, the archbishop of Huancayo
  • Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Madagascar, 63, the archbishop of Toamasina
  • Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of Italy, 69, the archbishop of L'Aquila
  • Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda of Japan, 69, the archbishop of Osaka

The Pope also named three new members over the age of 80 in recognition of their service to the Church:

  • Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera of Mexico, 86, the retired archbishop of Xalapa
  • Bishop Toribio Ticona Porco of Bolivia, 81, a retired prelate of Corocoro
  • Father Aquilino Bocos Merino of Spain, 80, retired member of the Claretian order

Three features are especially notable about the new appointments.

First, Francis is empowering some of his closest and most trusted aides in the Roman Curia, the central government of the Church.

Second, he is renewing his public support for persecuted Christians by choosing Catholic leaders from countries where the faith is under constant threat or where there has been immense suffering.

Third, he is continuing his project to expand the international composition of the College of Cardinals.


Francis’ Trusted Men

The most immediately telling feature of the new list of cardinals is not the presence of more cardinals from the peripheries, who have been a major feature of this pontificate. Instead, the names are much closer to home in the Vatican.

Francis named four Vatican officials: the Archbishop Ladaria, De Donatis, Becciu and Krajewski. All four have risen to prominence in the pontificate and have demonstrated loyalty to Francis and his leadership.

Archbishop Ladaria was named secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI and became the prefect of the congregation in 2017 after the surprising departure of Cardinal Gerhard Müller. As prefect, he has presided over a traditionally formidable Vatican office that has been significantly less active in the years of Pope Francis. Nevertheless, the congregation has weighed in recently on several notable controversies, including a critique of new manifestations of the old heresies of Gnosticism and Pelagianism and whether the German bishops have the right as an episcopal conference to permit Communion for the non-Catholic spouses of German Catholics.

The rise of Archbishop De Donatis has been almost meteoric. A priest of the Diocese of Rome, he first met Pope Francis at a luncheon not long after the Pope’s election in 2013. The next year, he was chosen to deliver the Lenten spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia, an immense honor that was typically given to a prominent theologian or cardinal. He then became an auxiliary bishop of Rome in 2015 and in 2016 the vicar general of Rome and archpriest of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, with the rank of archbishop, as successor to the powerful Cardinal Agostino Vallini.

Archbishop Becciu is a long-time Vatican diplomat with postings to Africa, the United States, New Zealand and Europe. From 2009 to 2011 he served as the ambassador, to Cuba. In 2011, Pope Benedict appointed him substitute for general affairs of the Secretariat of State, essentially the key figure in the day-to-day operations of the Roman Curia and one of the most challenging positions in the Vatican. Pope Francis was clearly impressed with his work, as he not only confirmed him in the post but added the duties of special delegate to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and its ongoing internal controversies, a post that Francis recently renewed.  

It will be interesting to see if Archbishop Becciu moves on to a larger role in the Curia, especially as his office as sostituto is directly beneath Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state. The promotion of Archbishop Becciu also finds an interesting historical parallel with the 1952 attempt by Pope Pius XII to name an earlier sostituto, Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, to the cardinalate. Cardinal Montini declined the red hat at the time, although he later accepted it under Pope John XXIII in 1958 and was elected Pope Paul VI five years later.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski became first well-known in the Vatican for his work from 1998 as a papal master of ceremonies under Pope John Paul II and then Pope Benedict XVI. In August 2013, Pope Francis appointed him papal almoner, the official in charge of papal charity as well as raising the money to help fund it. Archbishop Krajewski, known as Don Corrado, has become a famous figure in the streets and poorest sections of Rome for his tireless activities on behalf of the poor, homeless and marginalized.

Francis is promoting each of these new cardinals as a statement of his trust and also his support of their work. They now have even greater clout and a very public affirmation by the Pope of the influence they have already been wielding in this papacy.


The Church Persecuted or Suffering

As he has done with other consistories — such as Cardinal Mario Zenari, the papal nuncio to Syria, and Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar — Francis named two cardinals from places where the Church is suffering and persecution and even death are commonplace for the Christians there: Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan. The appointments are intended clearly to heighten the political and diplomatic profiles of both Church leaders as they guide Christian communities in a time of crisis.

Francis also named Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi, the archbishop of L'Aquila, in the Abruzzo region of Italy that was ravaged by the 2009 earthquake. Archbishop Petrocchi has worked on the recovery, and in December of last year took part in the rededication ceremony of the Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, in L’Aquila, which had been badly damaged in the earthquake.


A Global College

Pope Francis is likewise continuing aggressively to name new cardinals from around the world. While previous consistories have brought new members from the literal ends of the earth — such as Tonga, Haiti and Myanmar — this consistory will focus on the Church universal being fully represented in the College. Francis is bolstering Asia, with the noted choice of Pakistan, as well as Japan. Africa will have another cardinal, from Madagascar. And even if this list does not bring the innovation of cardinals hailing from countries that have never had members of the College, several places have not had new cardinals appointed for many years, such as Japan (2003), Madagascar (1994) and Pakistan (1973). The geographical distribution of Electors as of June 29 will be as follows:

Africa: 16

North America: 17

Latin America: 18

Asia: 16

Europe: 54

Oceania: 4

The cardinal electors come from 63 countries. Italy still has the largest group with 23, followed by the United States with 10. Spain, France and Poland will each have five.

And once again Francis has chosen to bypass the traditional so-called cardinalatial sees that historically have received the red hat in favor of smaller or decidedly more far-flung sees. There were no Americans named, despite some expectations that the archdioceses of Philadelphia (Archbishop Charles Chaput) and Los Angeles (Archbishop José Gomez) have long traditions of being headed by cardinals. Pope Francis has chosen to bypass other major sees, including Sydney, Australia (Archbishop Anthony Fisher), Venice (Patriarch Francesco Moraglia), and Milan (Archbishop Mario Delpini). Milan is especially notable as Archbishop Delpini was named by Francis, although the Pope is apparently respecting the presence of Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop emeritus, who is under the age of 80.