ROME – Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will create 14 new cardinals in June coming from all over the world, including Iraq, Pakistan, Italy, Poland, Peru, Japan, Madagascar, and several Vatican officials.
Eleven of those new cardinals are under 80, meaning they’re eligible to participate in an eventual conclave to choose Francis’s successor. The consistory, meaning the ceremony for the creation of new cardinals, will take place in Rome on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
According to Francis, the places of origin of the new cardinals shows the “universality of the Church, that continues to preach the merciful love of God throughout the earth.”
The 11 new cardinals under the age of 80, who will be active participants in a future conclave, are:
- Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, Iraqi, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
- Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Spaniard, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, Italian, Vicar General of Rome.
- Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Italian, Substitute of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
- Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Polish, Almoner of the Office of Papal Charities.
- Archbishop Joseph Coutts, of Karachi, Pakistan.
- Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto, Bishop of Leiria-Fátima, Portugal.
- Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru.
- Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar.
- Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila, Italy.
- Archbishop Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda, Archbishop of Osaka, Japan.
Francis also created three new cardinals who are above the age of 80, deciding to honor them for their service to the Church. These men are: Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera, the Archbishop Emeritus of Xalapa, Mexico; Bishop Toribio Ticona Porco, the emeritus of Corocoro, Bolivia; and Father Aquilino Bocos Merino, a Spanish Claretian.
As of June 29, when the new cardinals are inducted, the total number of cardinals will be 227, of whom 125 will be under 80, meaning able to vote for a new pope. That’s well above the traditional ceiling of 120 electors established under Blessed Pope Paul VI.
This will be Francis’s fifth consistory after previous events in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, suggesting he is inclined to create new cardinals at a pace of roughly once every year.
In comments to Crux on Sunday, Coutts of Pakistan called his appointment a “surprise” and an “honor.”
“I received this news with surprise,” he said. “It’s an honor for the minority Church in Pakistan, news received with great joy, [even by] with non -Christians, who know what a cardinal is,” he said.
Coutts also stressed the universal nature of Francis’s selections.
“Today is the Feast of Pentecost, and Pentecost is the birthday of Church,” he said. “Pope Francis is trying to make the Church more universal with the appointment of all 14 of us from peripheries as cardinals.”
Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace for the Pakistani church, told Crux, “I am extremely delighted to have read this amazing news.”
“Apart from that his services to the Catholic Church in Pakistan and the community, [Coutts] has been tremendous and is the best choice for a cardinal, which Pakistan will have after about 24 years,” Chaudhry said.
In Japan, Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, had similar praise for Maeda of Osaka.
“The Church in Japan is extremely small, so the appointment of the Bishop of Osaka as a cardinal is yet another example of Pope Francis’s emphasis on reaching out to the Church on the peripheries, on the margins, and embracing a truly universal Church,” Rogers said.
“It is also a sign of the pope’s particular commitment to Asia, a continent he has visited at least four times in his papacy, with visits to Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar/Burma and Bangladesh. This appointment is in keeping with previous appointments of new cardinals in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Tonga,” he said.
“It is a sign of the pope’s global vision,” Rogers said.
When a pope creates new cardinals, he’s not only choosing the person who might be his eventual successor. The “red hats,” as they’re often called due to the color of their zucchetto, or skullcap, also serve as key papal advisers, with those under 80 quickly being appointed as members of Vatican offices and councils.
The selection also says a lot about the path a pontiff wants the Church to take.
In the “Francis era,” many new cardinals come from far-flung, often overlooked dioceses where Catholics are a distinct minority. In this consistory, at least two new cardinals hail from Muslim-majority countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith.
This is the case of Sako, who comes from Iraq, the United States Senate declared in 2016 that, together with other minorities, Christians are victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State.
The patriarch has been outspoken about the perils Christians face, while urging them to remain in the lands of their ancestors who have been in the Middle East for two millennia.
“Now is the right time to adhere effectually to the land of their parents and grandparents, their identity, history and heritage,” Sako said last year. “The fact that we are the indigenous people of this country and its ancient civilizations, and that our history is traced back to the oldest Christian Church in the world, should be kept in our mind always.”
Similarly, due to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, a person can be jailed- or sentenced to death- for being accused of disrespecting Muhammad or the Quran. Earlier this year, new cardinal-elect Coutts was in Rome, and speaking with Rome Reports he said the law is easily abused, and Christians are often the target.
The Vatican officials who got the red hat are not surprising. Ladaria, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was expected to receive one since he was appointed to the position last year, replacing German Cardinal Gerhard Muller.
Becciu, appointed as sostituto in the Secretary of State by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, has earned the pope’s trust, and is technically the only man in the Vatican who doesn’t need an appointment to meet with Francis. Last year, the pontiff also appointed him as special delegate to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Krajewski, a Pole, is considered the personal representative of the pope’s charitable efforts to turn the Catholic Church into a “field hospital.”
As the head of the Vatican’s “almoners office,” he’s behind initiatives such as providing meals, sleeping bags and showers to Rome’s homeless, but also of providing them with opportunities that go beyond helping them meet their basic needs, such as taking them to seaside day trips during the summer months or opening the doors of the Vatican museums for them.
On the Italian front, Rome’s vicar was an expected decision, but the surprise was Petrocchi, of L’Aquila, in a region devastated by an earthquake in 2009. By choosing him, the pope overlooked a traditional red hat seat, Milan, despite the fact that it’s headed by Mario Delpini, tapped for the job by Francis last year.
Nirmala Carvalho, Crux’s Asia correspondent, also contributed to this report.