ROME – On Friday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has promoted Italian Cardinal Benjamin Stella and Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to cardinal-bishops, the highest category a prelate can belong to apart from being the pope himself.
The College of Cardinals is made up of three different ranks: cardinal deacons, cardinal priests and cardinal bishops. Both Stella and Tagle have long been considered “Francis men,” and his decision to promote them marks a clear sign that they have the pope’s stamp of approval.
Traditionally, cardinal bishops are titular bishops of one of the seven “Suburbicarian dioceses” in the area surrounding Rome.
In the May 1 announcement, Stella was assigned the Suburbicarian Church of Porto-Santa Rufina, whereas Tagle, was named a cardinal bishop without actually being named to one of the “suburbicarian” sees, which required special papal permission.
Dubbed the “Asian Francis” due to his emphasis on humility and closeness to the poor, Tagle was formerly the Archbishop of Manila until he was tapped by the pope as the new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples last December.
Stella, current prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, was tapped by Francis to head the office in 2013. At the time, his appointment was seen as a major shift in direction from the leadership of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, typically seen as a conservative who does not share Francis’s approach.
Tagle and Stella’s promotion is a signal that when the final vision of the pope’s curial reform eventually rolls out with the publication of his new constitution, they will be tone-setting figures.
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