Pope Francis named 21 new cardinals Sunday, most of them from continents other than Europe — which dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history — and further put his mark on the group of people who might someday elect the next pontiff.
Sixteen of those who will receive the prestigious red cardinal's hat from Francis in a consistory ceremony at the Vatican on Aug. 27 are younger than 80 and thus would be eligible to vote for his successor if a conclave — in which pontiffs are secretly elected — were to be held.
Francis read out the names of his choices after delivering traditional Sunday remarks from an open window of the Apostolic Palace to the public in St. Peter's Square.
Among those tapped by the pontiff to receive the prestigious red hat will be two prelates from India and one each from Ghana, Nigeria, Singapore, East Timor, Paraguay, and Brazil, in keeping with Francis’ determination to have church leaders reflect the global face of the Catholic church.
With church growth largely stagnant or at best sluggish in much of Europe and North America, the Vatican has been attentive to its flock to developing countries, including in Africa, where the number of faithful has been growing in recent decades. Only one new cardinal was named from the United States: Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, California.
This is the eighth batch of cardinals that Francis has named since becoming pontiff in 2013. A sizeable majority of those who are eligible to vote in a conclave were appointed by him, increasing the likelihood that they will choose as his successor someone who shares his papacy's priorities, including attention to those living on society's margins and to environmental crises.
A total of 131 cardinals would be young enough to elect a pope once the new batch are included, while the number of cardinals too old to vote will rise to 96.
Pontiffs traditionally have chosen their closest advisors and collaborators at the Vatican from among the ranks of cardinals, who have been dubbed the “princes of the church.”
These are the churchmen named by Francis:
— Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, France; Peter Okpaleke, bishop of Ekwulobia, Nigeria; Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil; Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao di Rosario Ferrao, archbishop of Goa and Daman, India; Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, California; Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, archbishop of Dili, East Timor; Oscar Cantoni, bishop of Como, Italy; Anthony Poola. archbishop of Hyderabad, India; Paulo Cezar Costa, archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil; Richard Kuuia Baawobr, bishop of Wa, Ghana; William Goh Seng Chye, archbishop of Singapore; Adalberto Martinez Flores, archbishop of Asuncion, Paraguay; and Giorgio Marengo, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
In addition to those churchmen, also under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave are three prelates who work at the Vatican: Arthur Roche of Britain, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; Lazzaro You Heung-sik of South Korea, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; and Fernando Vergez Alzaga of Spain, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and president of the Vatican City State's Governorate.
Francis in his choices kept up a tradition of naming some who are too old to vote in a conclave, but whose long decades of dedication to the Catholic church is honored by bestowing cardinal's rank on them. In this latest batch of nominations, they are Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, emeritus archbishop of Cartagena, Colombia; Lucas Van Looy, emeritus archbishop of Ghent, Belgium; Arrigo Miglio, emeritus archbishop of Cagliari, Sardinia; the Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit professor of theology; and Fortunato Frezza, canon of St. Peter's Basilica.
Presiding over the consistory this summer adds to an already ambitious schedule in the months ahead for Francis, who has taken to using a wheelchair or a cane of late due to a knee ligament problem. On Saturday, the Vatican released details of the 85-year-old pontiff's pilgrimage, from July 2 to 7, to Congo and South Sudan. He is also scheduled to make a pilgrimage to Canada later in July to apologize in person for abuse committed by churchmen and church institutions against Indigenous people in that country.
Almost as significant as those chosen to be cardinals are those who were not chosen, despite holding posts that in the past would have traditionally earned them the red hat.
In Francis’ selection on Sunday, he passed over the prominent archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. Earlier this month, Cordileone said he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
While Francis hasn’t publicly weighed in on the soon-expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights, in the past he has decried the political weaponizing of Communion.
The new U.S. cardinal, McElroy, holds very different views from Cordileone. He was among the relatively few U.S. bishops who several years ago called for U.S. church policy to better reflect Francis' concerns for the global poor. He also signed a statement last year expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying directed at them.