ROME— On Saturday, the eve of the closing of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis will create 17 new cardinals, 13 of whom could eventually be among the choosers — and perhaps the chosen — to replace history’s first pope from the global south.
When a pope dies, or resigns, all the members of the church’s most exclusive club, technically named “College of Cardinals,” gather in Rome to choose among themselves who will be the new leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
In what has become a trademark of this pontificate, Francis blindsided long-time Vatican watchers and even most of his closest collaborators alike when he announced the names of his new cardinals on Oct. 9.
The new guys
The pontiff had said, on the way back from his trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan in late September, that a consistory was in the works but that it could be either before the end of the Jubilee or early next year.
What very few were expecting was for the pope’s master of ceremonies to hand him a folded A4 page with the list of names after he concluded the Mass and subsequent Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square in early October, marking the closing of one of the Holy Year’s major event, the Marian Jubilee.
None of the cardinal-designates knew beforehand the appointment was happening. One of them even found out through Twitter.
Crux has written extensively about the new members of the College of Cardinals. However, because they will be the stars of Saturday’s tradition-filled show, here’s the full list:
- Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, US
- Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, recently appointed by Francis to Newark, US
- Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, US, named to head the pope’s new department on Family, Laity and Life
- Archbishop Mario Zenari, who remains the papal ambassador in what Pope Francis called “beloved and martyred Syria”
- Arcbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp., of the Central African Republic
- Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, Spain
- Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil
- Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, C.S.C., of Dhaka, Bangladesh
- Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Mérida, Venezuela
- Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Malines-Bruxelles, Belgium
- Archbishop Maurice Piat, Port-Louis, Mauritius
- Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico
- Archbishop John Ribat, M.S.C., Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
The honorary new cardinals, meaning those who’re over 80 and hence wouldn’t vote in an eventual conclave, are:
- Emeritus Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Emeritus Archbishop Renato Corti of Novara, Italy
- Emeritus Bishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai, O.M.I, Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho
- Father Ernest Simoni, Priest of the Archdiocese of Shkodrë-Pult in Albania
Show me your picks, and I’ll tell you where the church is going
When a pope creates new cardinals, he’s not only choosing the person who might be his eventual successor. By matter of hierarchy, the “red hats,” as they’re often called because of the color of their zucchetto, or skullcap, also serve as papal advisers.
Though it hardly means a move to Rome, those under 80 are quickly appointed to Vatican offices and councils, which often lead to at least annual pilgrimages to the eternal city.
The selection also says a lot about the path a pontiff wants the church to take.
In the “Francis era,” many of the new red hats hail from far-flung, often overlooked dioceses where Catholics are a distinct minority. This is a reflection of the pope’s insistence that the church needs to look to the peripheries and bring them to the center.
D’Rozario of Bangladesh, for instance, comes from a country where Christians represent 0.03 percent of the total population, and Catholics amount to fifty percent of that. That’s a six-figure number: 350,000, give or take a few, as he told Crux in a recent interview.
Nzapalainga, on the other hand, is known as one of the three saints of Bangui, and as such has a somewhat higher international profile, and Christians are a majority in Central African Republic, with different denominations amounting to 80 percent of the total. Yet he hails from conflict-torn nation that also happens to be the world’s second most poor country.
In 2014, Francis created 19 news cardinals, 16 of them under the age of 80.
The list included Chibly Langlois, from Haiti’s Les Cayes, meaning he overlooked Port au Prince, the capital and major diocese. Francis also overlooked more traditional Caribbean power-houses, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
That same year, the pontiff also appointed Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Jean-Pierre Kutwa, of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The first pope from the global south is also known for overlooking what are known as historic red hat sees, meaning dioceses that have had a cardinal for quite some time. In the United States, for instance, these would be cities such as Los Angeles or Philadelphia. In Italy, this means Florence and Venice.
This is Francis’ third consistory, the first one being in February 2014 and the second one a year later. Come Saturday, the college will have 228 cardinals, with 121 who would participate in a conclave.
Including those from Saturday, Francis has created 55 new cardinals, 44 with voting rights, in a three-year pontificate.
During the eight years he led the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI held five consistories, creating 90 new read hats. Of those, 78 are still alive, and 56 of them are still under 80. St. John Paul II instead, had 9 consistories in 27 years, creating 231 cardinals, 21 of who can still vote at a future conclave.
Not left v. right, but trust
Though in many cases it’s an easy — and somewhat tempting — game to try to do the math between “liberal” vs. “conservative” picks, this year’s selections, more than ever before, showed Francis’s preference to elevate men he knows, either because they worked together or because they caused an impression.
This is the case of Albanian Simoni, a priest who spent 28 years in a Communist work camp and sentence to death twice. His crime? Being a priest. The pope met Simoni during his visit to Tirana in 2014, where Francis was moved to tears by the heart wrenching testimony. The cardinal-elect is 88 years old.
Tobin, on the other hand, first worked with Francis in 2005 during the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, where the two worked closely for almost a month. During the meeting, as is customary, much of the work was done in small working groups divided by language.
Tobin and then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio were assigned to one in Spanish. Playing the afored mentioned game, he’d be considered a “center-left” prelate.
Mexico’s new cardinal was vice-president of the Latin American bishop’s conference from 2003 to 2007. As such, Aguiar Retes worked closely with then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires in the run-up to the fifth CELAM assembly in May 2007, which was held in Brazil. The concluding document was written by a drafting team headed by Bergoglio, today Francis.
Friends and foes alike define him as a “center-right” man.
The Argentine pope has also often gone out of his way to avoid making the college an European club with some outsiders, to guarantee it represents the church’s universality.
His immediate predecessor, on the other hand, seemed determined to uphold tradition at almost every turn. Instead of placing his own personal stamp on the college, he’d stick to the ceiling of 120 voting-age cardinals, wouldn’t break with the custom of naming a new cardinal before his predecessor turned 80, and insisted on giving the red hat to all those Vatican officials who have traditionally held it.
Benedict did, however, shake things up in late 2012, when he’d already made, but not yet announced, his decision to resign. On November of that year, he held the smallest consistory in 35 years, elevating six new cardinals.
It broke with tradition on several fronts, including the fact that it was the second held that year, the first one not to include an Italian-nor a European in 85 years.
Nerding it up
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consistory as “a solemn meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals convoked and presided over by the pope.”
Though it seems to miss the key element of Saturday’s consistory, which is the creation of the new cardinals, it’s not inaccurate. This is because the term, from the Latin con-sistere, meaning “stand together,” is not solely used for these events.
For instance, when on February 28, 2013, Benedict XVI announced his resignation, he did so during what’s known as an “ordinary” consistory. These often happen at least once a year.
In other words, consistories are meetings between the pontiff and the cardinals, and all the members of the college are expected to fly to Rome to participate. Unlike past consistories, however, this time there isn’t a “business meeting” with all the cardinals the day before the actual ceremony to induct new members into the college.
The cardinal-creating ceremony
The identities of the cardinal-elect are generally announced between four to six weeks before the ceremony. However, they’re technically not considered so until the ceremony, which is when their elevation to the college takes effect.
It’s not actually mandatory for the prelate to attend the consistory for his elevation to be effective.
Some men have died before the consistory, and if a pope dies between the announcement and the ceremony, all nominations are voided.
The cardinals-elect will arrive to St. Peter’s Basilica already donning their red robes. Technically, crimson, the color is a reminder that they are called to be faithful to Christ, his church and the pope to the point of shedding blood.
In the ceremony-which is not a Mass — they new cardinals will solemnly profess their faith by reciting the Creed and formally swear fidelity and obedience to the pope and his successors. Afterwards, keeping with a tradition choreographed through the centuries, one by one they will approach Francis, who will give them a biretta — a three-cornered red hat — their cardinal’s ring and the assignment of their titular church.
(Some) of the exceptions
Although today most cardinals are bishops, episcopal consecration is not actually a requirement. This is the case for instance of Father Simoni. Another example of this case is American Cardinal Avery Dulles, a Jesuit priest, theologian who in 2001 asked John Paul II to be dispensed from becoming a bishop.
Technically, even a lay person could be created a cardinal, which is the reason why early in Francis’s papacy, there were rumors he intended to create a woman cardinal — speculation which he himself refuted.
The last time a member of the College of Cardinals renounced that status came in 1927, with a French Jesuit named Louis Billot. He had been made a cardinal in 1911 and locked horns with Pope Pius XI during the 1920s over Action Français, a far-right French monarchist movement.