Pope Francis names twenty new Cardinals

Pope Francis names twenty new Cardinals

AD2000 Report

Pope Francis has announced the appointment of 20 new Cardinals, and at the same time indicated that the role of the College of Cardinals will be expanded from that of electing the next pope to helping to govern the Church.

For two days before the Consistory, the cardinals from throughout the world will meet in Rome to discuss the implementation of the reforms to the Roman Curia which have been under way since Pope Francis took office. The meeting will include all cardinals, not just those under the age of 80 who are eligible to elect the next pope.

The meeting will review the work of the commission of seven cardinals, including Cardinal Pell, who have been working on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, including a new apostolic constitution for the Curia.

The meeting will undoubtedly help the Holy Father to get to know the cardinals better himself but it will also strengthen the personal ties between the cardinals who increasingly come from distant parts of the world.

Developing world

The most significant aspect of the recent appointment of new cardinals is the shift from the developed world towards the developing world.

These cardinals will include the first in history from Cape Verde, Tonga and Myanmar.

Three of the new cardinals-designate come from Asia, five from Latin America, seven from Western Europe, two from Africa and two from Oceania.

Of the five Europeans under the age of 80, three lead dioceses in Italy and Spain that have not traditionally had cardinals as bishops - another sign of Francis's willingness to break with precedent.

While cardinals from Western Europe make up about 55 per cent of those under the age of 80, they have never formed a voting bloc, and there are strong local and regional differences, as well as different approaches to the issues of evangelisation and the role of the Church in the modern world.

From a local perspective, the Pope has appointed New Zealand Archbishop John Dew of Wellington, aged 66, and Tongan Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 53.

Another welcome sign is that Pope Francis has appointed the Archbishops of Hanoi, Vietnam, Yangon (Rangoon) in Burma, and Bangkok, Thailand. The Church has been persecuted in Vietnam since the communist takeover, while the number of Christians in both Burma and Thailand is relatively small, but growing.

The shift away from the developed world is also reflected in the fact that none of the new Cardinals come from North America or Australia, a fact that has caused ripples of criticism from the media in the United States.

The US currently has 11 cardinals under the age of 80, and Canada three.

However, given the evident desire of the Holy Father to give representation to countries where the Church is growing or under threat, the appointments are welcome.

An omission which should be noted in the absence of cardinals from China, where the Church has been relentlessly persecuted since the communists seized power in 1949 and where, nevertheless, Christianity is enjoying spectacular growth.

Pope Francis clearly does not want to disturb relations with the regime in Beijing, which are delicate – to say the least – nor does he want to consult Beijing before making any appointments, nor, on the other hand, to make life more difficult for the Catholics of China.

Another surprise is that there were no appointments from Eastern Europe where the Church has had spectacular growth and respect following the fall of Soviet communism.

The decision not to make appointments from the Orthodox world probably reflects the Holy Father's desire to bring the Orthodox Churches into union with the Holy See, or at least, to bring about closer ties.

Interesting aspects

There were more subtle, but equally interesting aspects of the new cardinals-designate.

Pope Francis has not appointed men from the traditional archdiocesan sees such as Turin and Venice, in Italy.

Rather, he has bypassed Italy's traditionally most important sees with his appointment of the archbishops of Ancona and Agrigento, doing the same for Spain with the elevation of the archbishop of Valladolid who is the president of its episcopal conference.

In Mexico, Pope Francis elevated Archbishop Morelia from Michoacan – an area marked by drug violence and crime – far from the historic sees of Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. On another front, as he did last year with Haiti's first-ever Cardinal Langlois of Les Cayes, the Pope elevated three diocesan bishops not of metropolitan rank.

Pope Francis evidently wants to expand the role of the College of Cardinals, not just their number.

The effect of the new appointments is to "internationalise" further the College of Cardinals, ensuring that the concerns of the Church in all five continents are taken into account, and that the momentum for reform of the Church's internal administration, particularly the Curia, continues.

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